Euro 2020 Special

International Friendly: Shorthanded England Squeak Past Austria

England 1-0 Austria

England survived a late scare as they squeaked past Austria 1-0 in the first of their two pre-Euro 2020 international friendly matches.

Bukayo Saka scored the only goal for the significantly shorthanded hosts, who were without nearly half of their Euro 2020 squad after Chelsea, Manchester City, and Manchester United stars were all rested. As a result, Gareth Southgate was forced to field a handful of players who did not make the cut for his final 26-man Euro 2020 squad.

Despite so many absentees, the Three Lions side were still favoured heavily by the international friendly 2021 betting odds, and they just about managed to hang on for the home win.

However, Southgate has yet another injury concern to deal ahead of Euro 2020 after Trent Alexander-Arnold limped off late.

Highlights of the game

With so many absentees, Southgate had no choice but to pick a significantly understrength starting XI which had Alexander-Arnold and Kieran Trippier at full-back and Conor Coady and Tyrone Mings as the centre-back partnership.

17-year-old Jude Bellingham was handed his first career England start alongside Declan Rice as Kalvin Phillips and Jordan Henderson were both held out due to injury concerns.

The hosts had the first clear chance of the match four minutes in. Kane delivered a tremendous cross-field ball to Alexander-Arnold, who was in acres of space on the right. But the Liverpool man blasted his right-footed shot over the bar.

The visitors finally got their first sight of the England goal on eight minutes, with Christoph Baumgartner’s shot just going over the bar.

Bellingham thought he had put England ahead after he redirected Jesse Lingard’s shot off a corner into the goal. But the goal did not count due to a foul by Tyrone Mings.

Harry Kane has failed to hit a goal when England battled Austria in International Friendly
England star Harry Kane looks disappointed after missing a shot during their International Friendly against Austria

England’s best chance of the first half fell to Kane near the half-hour mark. Grealish’s through ball set Kane up for a one-on-one with Austrian keeper Daniel Bachmann, who did brilliantly to deny the England skipper.

England finally found the opening goal they were looking for 11 minutes after the break. After a well-worked counterattack which involved the front three of Kane, Lingard, and Grealish, Saka was on hand to score his first career international goal.

A host of substitutes, including defender Ben Godfrey, came on slightly after the hour mark. Godfrey, who missed the cut for the Euros, very nearly made a disastrous error on his England debut as Pickford had to scramble to prevent his Everton team-mate’s wayward backpass from ending up as an own goal.

Austria came so close to an equaliser through Sabitzer’s strike from the edge of the box, but Pickford got his fingertips onto the ball to push it onto the crossbar. Sabitzer had another long-range shot nine minutes from time which required another good Pickford save.

Substitute Michael Gregoritsch was unable to get his unmarked header on target with two minutes to go. And in stoppage time, Ben White was on hand to make a crucial goal-line clearance after Pickford fluffed his lines while trying to punch the ball away.

But while England escaped with the win, they did not come away unscathed as Alexander-Arnold limped off with an apparent thigh injury.

Key statistics

Looking at the stats, Austria were arguably the better team and were unlucky to lose. They had a 13-9 shot advantage and had 61 per cent of possession. However, they just couldn’t convert their chances while the Three Lions took theirs.

With the win, England improved to 11-4-4 in 19 matches against Austria, with their last three victories all 1-0.

Bukayo Saka, who was one of the big surprises in the Premier League this season, scored his first international goal for England in just his fifth career cap. Meanwhile, Jude Bellingham (17 years, 338 days) became the youngest player to start for England since Wayne Rooney against Liechtenstein in 2003.

What’s next?

England will play their second and final pre-Euro 2020 warm-up match against Romania on June 7. Some of the stars who did not feature against Austria are likely to get a runout.

Meanwhile, there should be more international friendly 2021 updates on Alexander-Arnold’s health status by that time.

As for Austria, they will return home to play their final warm-up match against Slovakia on June 6 before preparing for their first Euro 2020 group match against North Macedonia.