Saka silences the doubters, but England suffer injury woe in feisty friendly

Date published: Wednesday 2nd June 2021 9:51 - Steve Pearson

Bukayo Saka celebrating after scoring for England against Austria, June 2021

Bukayo Saka excelled in a close England victory over Austria, but Gareth Southgate was left sweating after Trent Alexander-Arnold left the pitch heavily limping.

Perhaps seeking to justify his selection of four right-backs, Gareth Southgate deployed Kieran Trippier on the left side with Trent Alexander-Arnold occupying his usual position. Jesse Lingard was also given a chance to impress from the off despite being overlooked for the 26-man squad.

Much of England’s hopes this summer will rest on Harry Kane bringing his sensational club form into the international arena. Within five minutes, the Tottenham hitman looked as if he was playing in North London, picking out Alexander-Arnold with a sublime cross-field ball.

The full-back controlled well and drove at goal before seeing his powerful strike tipped over.

Bukayo Saka provided pace and a tangible threat down the left, even forcing the referee into producing a rare friendly yellow card after Xaver Schlager couldn’t handle the Arsenal youngster.

The one component missing in Saka’s game has been the final act, and unfortunately it reared its ugly head again in the 20th minute.

Kane held off an Austrian defender to allow the ball to drop to Saka at the far post. Lashing at the ball, the wide man blazed over from close range.

England were in firm control despite the unusually tough tackling from Austria. Kane saw a golden opportunity saved after neat interplay between Saka and Jack Grealish, but the flag would’ve gone up if the net had bulged.

Surprisingly, that proved the last major goalmouth action of the first half as Southgate’s men failed to prise open the Austrian backline at the Riverside.

Saka continued to look dangerous after the break, teasing a second Austrian into the referee’s notebook before being in the right place at the right time to hand England the lead.

He, Kane, Grealish and Lingard all broke at pace, driving the Austrian defence back towards their goal. Lingard’s deft touch into the path of Grealish was cleared straight to Saka who kept his composure to tuck away from a narrow angle.

Austria sought to hit back immediately and came close twice through Marcel Sabitzer. The RB Leipzig playmaker twice forced smart stops from Jordan Pickford, the latter of which was a superb fingertip save onto the woodwork.

The match struggled to maintain its fluidity as each side began to ring the changes. There was a nervy moment when Grealish was spotted with an ice pack on his lower leg after his substitution.

Hearts were again in mouthes as the match wound down when Alexander-Arnold appeared to suffer a thigh injury. The Liverpool man was bizarrely booked in the process for reasons only the referee could fathom.

Ben White cleared a goalbound effort off the line in injury time as England secured a clean sheet and victory in their first Euro 2020 warm-up match.

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