England began their Euro warm-up matches this evening with a convincing 1-0 win over Austria. The Three Lions dominated the bulk of the match, with Bukayo Saka leading them early in the second half, although a brave defense was needed to push back the late Austrian attack.
Yet the evening was not pleasant for Gareth Southgate. At times, and especially in the early stages, his side looked sluggish and struggled to penetrate an opponent 19 places below him in the world rankings. This was forgivable given the absence of the leading men playing in the European finals last weekend. More concerned though was Trent Alexander-Arnold with just a few minutes off the pitch.
After the game, Southgate said: “We’ll have to assess that over the next 24 hours, I think. [it was a] Thigh injury but the medical team is still assessing it.” With Alexander-Arnold grinning, ITV’s punditry team was already discussing who would replace him.
Southgate has flirted with both four-at-the-back and five-at-the-back formations during his England stint. Including four right-backs in his final Euro squad, two of whom – Kyle Walker and Reece James – have played in the back three this season, looks like he will opt for five-at-the-back. However, England 4-2-3-1 At Riverside, that was surprising despite the fact that they played a similar formation in their last three wins in March.
Franco Foda’s Austria opted for a 4-2-3-1, which included many names familiar to the audience of Germany’s top flight. David Alaba started alongside RB Leipzig’s Marcel Sabitzer and Eintracht Frankfurt’s Martin Hinteregger – who were among the Bundesliga’s top performers this season. Perhaps due to the lack of depth in the Austrian pitch, many of these quality players were used in the odd position. The alaba, usually a defender, is played on the wing. Sabitzer was also used in a more advanced condition than usual.
Another point of interest is England’s centre-back. With Manchester United captain Harry Maguire expected to be ruled out of Croatia’s game with an ankle injury, it will be a direct shootout between Conor Cody and Tyrone Mings to see who will partner John Stones in the opener. Coady and Mings both debuted tonight, with the Stones still resting behind them champions league final Attendance last Saturday.
Alexander-Arnold started the game like a man to prove, fueling doubts that he would even make the final team. He bowled a cross from a few inches deep to Harry Kane in the first minute, then fired a long shot at Daniel Bachchan two minutes later. Austria also looked eager to prove their doubts wrong after poor results in March, with Christoph Baumgartner sending a 25-yard-attempt in the opening stages to start well ahead.
After a frantic start, the game fell into a familiar rhythm, with England dominating the ball and Austria sitting back. Playing a middle-aggressive midfield role, Jack Grealish was England’s brightest spark in the first half. The player with the highest number of fouls in the Premier League this season continued to lift dangerous freekicks around Austria’s penalty area and skillfully slip Kane at the half-hour mark – although the effort was saved.
Austria, meanwhile, struggled to advance, limiting the amount of opportunities England could have good. Some of his successful moves came when striker Sasa Kalajadzik managed to flick long balls at those around him, and Baumgartner refused to make another good attempt at the end of the half. Still, the mood at half-time mirrored the beauty of the mostly empty Riverside Stadium – the monotonous – performances of the two teams together.
England started the second half with greater urgency, which was hardly a tall order considering their first half. Jude Bellingham began to come into his own, ejecting Austria on several occasions, which paid dividends after 56 minutes. Before Grealish and Jesse Lingard engaged in a wide attack, Bellingham once again started the move with a winning back possession, which Saka expertly scored. The Arsenal player smiled ear-to-ear after England lifted his first goal in the empty net. Southgate will also be glad that one of their more surprising selections So commendable performance.
England then substituted, presumably to ensure that each player got the exact amount of minutes in their feet for maximum match fitness. Kane, Declan Rice, Mings and Lingard made way for James Ward-Prause, Ollie Watkins, Ben Godfrey and Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Of those offered, only the latter has made it past Southgate. provisional squad.
Austria, driven by goal and disorientation due to England’s substitute hit the bar in 64th Minute. Sabitzer was testing Jordan Pickford from range throughout the match, but the Everton keeper continued to respond with a finger-draw. Southgate’s number one has done well at Goodison Park in recent months after a poor start to the season and will look to repeat his World Cup penalty shootout heroism at this year’s tournament.
As the clock struck down the competitiveness of every football player’s psyche, it became clear, and the warm-up game opened. Sabitzer continued to make a fuss from the boundary as Marco Friedl backed up the left flank, while Ben White – introduced to sit in front of a late four by England – blocked a long-range attempt on the bar.
The most meaningful moment of the evening came at the time of death and that was not even the goal. Alexander-Arnold grabbed his left foot and pulled up after starting a smooth clearance forward.
After weeks of media and pundits Debate over whether Liverpool right-back will make the final squad, it all seemed quite in vain after helping him limp around the pitch. Ten men from England defended valiantly in the final stage, but All attention was drawn to the painful expression on Alexander-Arnold’s face..
Grealish played down Southgate’s injury concerns after the match, despite having iced his shin before full time. He told ITV that “it was a little strain on my shin, a different kind of injury”. [to the one he’d suffered recently]But no, I’m not worried.”
On Alexander-Arnold, he continued: “I’m not sure what happened, the way he was moving around the pitch didn’t look good.”
The England manager was keen to allay concerns around Alexander-Arnold after the game, repeatedly citing a standard “let’s see how he is” response. Regarding the match, Southgate said: “I thought we had a good start, playing against a very good team with some good players. We needed to protect the guys so we had to make changes – let it be unconvincing Gone, so we had to be near the end.”
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