Smalling clinches win for England against 10-man Portugal

Date published: Thursday 2nd June 2016 9:39

England: Can they really top Group B?

England: Can they really top Group B?

Chris Smalling headed in a late winner as England edged past 10-man Portugal in their last Euro 2016 warm-up match at Wembley. 

The third and final preparation game was always likely to prove the toughest, but few expected a disjointed attack to be the main concern.

England’s defence had been the overriding concern ahead of the Wembley encounter, but Roy Hodgson’s inability to effectively shoehorn the attacking triumvirate of Wayne Rooney, Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy into the same line-up was main issue in the 1-0 win against the 10 men of Portugal.

Smalling’s late header was one of few moments for the sell-out Wembley crowd to shout about, with Vardy and Kane struggling to make an impact either side of Rooney as the Three Lions lacked attacking coherence and edge.

Portugal played the majority of the match with 10 men after defender Bruno Alves’ lunging high tackle on Kane resulted in a red card, but England failed to capitalise and were unable to break down their opposition until the 86th minute, when Smalling headed them into the lead.

Rooney

The struggles of Vardy, Rooney and Kane will dominate much of the post-match conversation, but at least England head into the Group B opener against Russia on the back of a win courtesy of Smalling’s first international goal.

England had the best of the early chances with Rooney forcing a brilliant close-range save out of goalkeeper Rui Patricio, but the England captain would have been ruled out for offside.

That was one of few moments of note in a tepid first half and at the other end James Milner was fortunate to send a wayward pass to Nani, with the former Manchester United attacker blazing well over from distance.

Danny Rose produced a timely challenge to stop a whipped Eliseu cross finding its intended target and Ricardo Carvalho headed over from a corner as Portugal looked to capitalise on England’s disjointed display, epitomised by striker Kane’s short corner straight to an opponent.

DeleAlli

Rooney saw a header denied at the back post after a deep cross from man-of-the-match Kyle Walker, who came close to opening his account in style as a first-time strike flew inches wide.

The goal would not have disguised a difficult first-half display for England, though, and Hodgson was robbed of a chance to try to solve their attacking issues in the 36th minute.

Portugal were reduced to 10 men in bizarre fashion when centre-back Bruno Alves flew in with a high foot, catching Kane in the head and giving the referee Marco Guida no choice but to brandish a red card.

It was deserved punishment for a ridiculous challenge that all-but killed the match as a meaningful test, with Kane forcing Patricio into a save as Portugal attempted to regroup.

Alves

The two sides went into the half-time break goalless with Hodgson having a decision to make whether to stick to his original set-up, or adjust to facing the 10-man opposition.

For all their dominance in the first half, England came out in the second half on the back foot, failing to create any clear-cut opportunities.

The 4-4-2 diamond formation appeared to cause a headache for Hodgson, with Kane and Vardy often having to track back to their own 18-yard box to cover the attacking full-backs, leaving Rooney as a lone forward when possession was gained.

Smalling2

Walker continued to look one of England’s most dangerous players and was caught just outside the box by Andre Gomes, with Gary Cahill’s header from the resulting free-kick blocked by Jose Fonte.

Kane saw a free-kick deflected wide from distance and substitute Daniel Sturridge hit a snap-shot across goal as England pushed for a winner, which arrived four minutes from time.

Substitute Raheem Sterling superbly bent in a right-footed cross and Smalling darted in to direct a header past Patricio, belatedly giving the home fans something to cheer on a frustrating night at Wembley.

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