Ollie Watkins’ goal early in the second half made the difference as England squeezed past Australia in a friendly to extend their unbeaten streak to 11 games.
With a heavyweight 2024 European Championship qualifier against Italy around the corner, Gareth Southgate opted for a second-string line-up, sticking with Jack Grealish and Jordan Henderson as the only first-team regulars.
Although there’s a good chance that at least ten players who started tonight’s match at Wembley Stadium won’t feature against Luciano Spalletti’s side on Tuesday, Southgate’s team contained nine Premier League stalwarts.
AC Milan defender Fikayo Tomori and Al-Ettifaq’s Henderson were the only England starters currently plying their trade outside English soil. But it wasn’t enough for the Three Lions to impress in London.
Goalscorer Watkins had the best opportunity in the early goings but failed to convert from point-blank after rounding past Australia goalkeeper Mathew Ryan.
Despite boasting 69% possession in the first half, England looked clueless in the front third while allowing the Socceroos to create several decent chances at the other end of the field.
Keanu Baccus’ deflected effort flying into the corner nearly found its way into the back of the net, yet Crystal Palace stopper Sam Johnstone was up to the task to deny an early upset.
Australia came close to breaking the deadlock again, with Mitchell Duke’s volley narrowly missing the target. However, the best chance in the first 45 minutes was yet to come.
Graham Arnold’s men orchestrated a lightning-fast counter-attack, releasing Ryan Strain in space.
Luckily for England, Brighton & Hove Albion centre-back Lewis Dunk made a crucial goal-line clearance to keep the scoreline at 0-0.
Southgate’s side made the Australians pay for their first-half profligacy as Grealish picked out Watkins on the back post with a ball across the face of goal, with the Aston Villa striker tapping home to open the scoring.
England settled for a slender lead going into the last half an hour of play, which almost backfired when Connor Metcalfe headed Martin Boyle’s corner-kick delivery onto the post.
England Player Ratings
Sam Johnstone (8/10) – Pulled off a vital save to thwart Baccus and looked calm and collected in a rare chance to start for the national team.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (7/10) – Despite returning to his right-back position after playing as a midfielder in several recent games, the Liverpool star was at the thick of every England movement.
Lewis Dunk (8/10) – England would’ve headed into half-time with a deficit if it wasn’t for his phenomenal clearance off the line.
Fikayo Tomori (7/10) – In his first international outing since June 2022, Milan’s defensive cornerstone showed some promising signs but insufficiently to earn a more prominent role in competitive matches.
Levi Colwill (6/10) – Following a nervy start to his England debut, the highly-rated Chelsea youngster grew into the contest, shrugging off the pressure after picking up an early booking.
Jordan Henderson (5/10) – If Southgate needed a reason to reconsider the veteran’s international status, he may have found one tonight. A lack of pace and reluctance to move the ball forward highlighted his poor evening.
Conor Gallagher (6/10) – Apart from sporadic attempts to push forward, another Chelsea man failed to impact the play.
James Maddison (6/10) – Not one of his best performances this season. Lucky to see the flag going up after skying the ball over the bar midway through the first half.
Jarrod Bowen (6/10) – Filling Bukayo Saka’s shoes proved a tall order for the West Ham United ace. He would want to forget this night quickly.
Jack Grealish (7/10) – Although unfortunate not to grab one for himself, the Manchester City winger provided a crucial assist to help England get on the scoresheet.
Ollie Watkins (8/10) – The Three Lions’ most threatening player tonight without a doubt. In addition to scoring the winning goal, he found himself in numerous promising situations.
Marcus Rashford (6/10) – Translated his underwhelming club form to the international stage.
Kieran Trippier (5/10) – Had a quiet game by his high Newcastle United standards since coming on.
Kalvin Phillips (5/10) – Gave home fans no reason to stop questioning Southgate’s decision to play him ahead of James Ward-Prowse.
John Stones (7/10) – Back to international duty after a lengthy spell on the sidelines, the versatile Man City man did his defensive job to a tee.
Phil Foden (N/A)
Eddie Nketiah (N/A)
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