England narrowly fended off 10-man Portugal 1-0 inside Wembley Stadium on Thursday night in the Three Lions’ final warm-up fixture before EURO 2016.
Manchester United defender Chris Smalling headed home the only goal of the game just four minutes shy of full-time, after visiting centre-half Bruno Alves had been sent off for a wreckless challenge on Tottenham’s Harry Kane earlier on in the first-half.
Despite a far below-par performance from the hosts; national team coach Roy Hodgson will be satisfied having won all three of his side’s pre-tournament international friendlies, having defeated both Turkey and Australia 2-1 in the previous outings.
Plus, his men came through last night’s match without any new injury concerns and with a much appreciated clean sheet ahead of their EURO 2016 Group B opener against Russia a week on Saturday.
Hodgson preferred Kyle Walker, who was arguably man of the match come the final whistle, ahead of Liverpool’s Nathaniel Clyne; meanwhile the former Fulham, Liverpool and West Brom boss decided to start captain Wayne Rooney, Jamie Vardy and Kane for the very first time in an England starting XI.
But despite the team’s attacking intent before kick-off; the Three Lions rarely threatened Patricio’s goal after referee Marco Guida’s first whistle, with the Premier League’s top two goalscorers, Kane and Vardy, unable to find space and make any darting runs to cause Portugal’s defence much problems.
After registering just four shots on target throughout 90 minutes; although Portugal managed none, England finally broke the deadlock with four minutes remaining, when Smalling neatly nodded in substitute Raheem Sterling’s inviting cross on his 25th international appearance.
Smalling’s winner now means that the Three Lions’ last three goals have all been scored by Manchester United teammates, after Rooney and teenage striker Marcus Rashford netted against Australia last month.
Despite the game being drab, dreary and a dull affair; England’s first victory over Portugal since April 1998, ending a run of five games without a win, will give Hodgson’s men a confidence boost heading into EURO 2016 – which starts on June 10 in France.