England concluded their preparations for Euro 2016 with a narrow win over 10-man Portugal in a disappointing friendly at Wembley.
Chris Smalling headed England’s winner from substitute Raheem Sterling’s cross with four minutes left as manager Roy Hodgson’s side struggled to break down Portugal, who had Bruno Alves sent off for a wild, high challenge on Harry Kane in the 35th minute.
Only Kyle Walker distinguished himself although Sterling provided a lively cameo off the bench.
The main positive for Hodgson was that there were no fresh injury concerns as he now turns his attention to the Euro 2016 opener against Russia in Marseille on 11 June.
Reaction to England’s warm-up win over Portugal
England’s flawed system
England’s team sheet looked packed with positive attacking intent – but once they lined up the system looked ill-suited to the team Hodgson had selected.
The biggest victim was Tottenham’s Dele Alli, who looked so outstanding playing in an advanced central role in the 3-2 win against Germany in March, but was out of sorts and shunted to the margins by England’s formation.
Alli was restricted to the left to allow Wayne Rooney to play through the middle, while Jamie Vardy and Kane, with 49 Premier League goals between them this season, barely got within sight of each other all night.
Vardy and Kane were seemingly handed the responsibility of providing width but instead they were stretched so far apart as to be rendered completely ineffective.
The pair have all the makings of a potent partnership but not when they are virtual strangers. It is something Hodgson must work on before England face Russia.
Can Rooney cut it as an England midfielder?
Rooney was as industrious as ever but the muddled manner in which this formation performed will again raise questions about his role in England’s team.
Rooney, 30, brings much to the side but is he really a better bet in the number 10 role than Alli?
That is currently debatable, which leaves him fighting for his place as a striker, although once again the way England set up appeared to confuse the players as much as inspire them.
The Manchester United and England captain can still win games but will Hodgson be brave enough to leave him out when the situation demands it?
Sterling’s confidence boost
Sterling had a difficult first season at Manchester City after his £49m summer move from Liverpool – but there are one or two signs his confidence may be returning.
He was lively in the win against Australia and set up Rooney’s second goal, and here he delivered a perfect cross for Smalling to head England’s late decider.
If Sterling’s confidence-rebuilding process can continue over the next few weeks, then England could find a potent weapon restored at Euro 2016.
Joe Hart (goalkeeper) 5
One poor first-half clearance and had so little to do he barely merits a rating.
Man of the match: Kyle Walker (right-back) 8
Impressive going forward with several good crosses and one thunderous shot just wide.
Gary Cahill (centre-back) 5
Booked and a couple of careless moments but not really tested by a Portugal side lacking ambition.
Chris Smalling (centre-back) 6
Barely had anything to do on what was an easy night for him defensively then chipped in with that late winner.
Danny Rose (left-back) 6
Got forward a lot and did enough to suggest he will start against Russia. One good first-half interception.
Eric Dier (defensive midfielder) 5
Undistinguished performance in an undistinguished game, but not alone in that.
James Milner (midfielder) 5
Anonymous. Almost let Portugal in with one misplaced first-half pass.
Dele Alli (midfielder) 5
A waste of his ability in a left-sided role. He must play in the number 10 position against Russia.
Wayne Rooney (attacking midfielder) 5
Industrious but not at his best.
Jamie Vardy (forward) 5
Frustrating night playing too far away from Harry Kane. The pair should be operating as a partnership.
Harry Kane (forward) 6
Worked hard but the system never got the best out of him. And why is England’s main striker taking corners?
Jack Wilshere (on for Milner, 66 minutes) 5
Quiet run out just to add to his fitness.
Raheem Sterling (on for Vardy, 66 minutes) 6
Excellent cameo and made Smalling’s goal with a perfect cross.
Daniel Sturridge (on for Kane, 78 minutes), Adam Lallana (on for Rooney, 78 minutes), Jordan Henderson (on for Alli, 90 minutes)
Roy Hodgson, speaking to BBC Sport: “It is often a struggle when you play against 10 men. We would have preferred 11 v 11, to flow more in attack and in defence.
“We were on the ball and trying to find the way through a packed and well-organised Portugal defence.
“I don’t intend to tell you what I think of what worked and what didn’t.
“The players worked hard to keep their shape and build attacks. It is our third win and one against a Portugal team ranked higher than us in the Fifa rankings, so no reason to be dissatisfied.
“Have I decided my best 11? That is difficult and will depend on the night.
“I am happy I have got 16/17 good players and happy with the options available to us.”
Analysis – ‘A worrying performance’
Former England defender Danny Mills on BBC Radio 5 live: “Too many square pegs in round holes. Three centre-forwards on the pitch going for the same ball, in the same space. I don’t get it. I am not sure what system Roy is playing, you are taking away from all those players all their strengths.
“Look at the positives: no injuries, a clean sheet and the win.
“Unfortunately that does not tell the true story. That is a worrying performance. You are looking for the team to be confident, bright and sharp but that never materialised.”
Former England midfielder Jermaine Jenas on BBC Radio 5 live: “It was a tough night, as a player you want to get through unscathed and get on the plane to France.
“From Roy Hodgson’s perspective, I am not sure if he has caused himself more problems with the Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy and Wayne Rooney situation.
“They have got the win. The players that came off the bench had a positive impact. I felt the team were more creative and enjoyable to watch with what we ended with.”
The stats you need to know
- Chris Smalling scored his first goal for England in his 25th appearance for the Three Lions.
- England’s last three goals have been scored by three different Manchester United players (Marcus Rashford, Wayne Rooney and Chris Smalling).
- Bruno Alves was the first player to be sent off in an England game at Wembley since Steven Gerrard against Ukraine in September 2012.
- England secured a victory over Portugal for the first time since April 1998, ending a run of five games without a win against them.
- The Three Lions have conceded just three goals in their last 11 games at Wembley.
- Portugal failed to muster a single shot on target in the 90 minutes.
Who do you think should start at Euro 2016? Step into Roy Hodgson’s shoes and pick your XI – and then share it with your friends using our brand new team selector.
Match ends, England 1, Portugal 0.
Second Half ends, England 1, Portugal 0.
Attempt missed. William Carvalho (Portugal) header from the left side of the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Ricardo Quaresma with a cross following a corner.
Corner, Portugal. Conceded by Danny Rose.
Substitution, England. Jordan Henderson replaces Dele Alli.
Substitution, Portugal. Eder replaces Ricardo Carvalho.
Foul by Adam Lallana (England).
Eliseu (Portugal) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Goal! England 1, Portugal 0. Chris Smalling (England) header from the centre of the box to the bottom right corner. Assisted by Raheem Sterling with a cross following a set piece situation.
Dele Alli (England) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Ricardo Carvalho (Portugal).
Corner, England. Conceded by Ricardo Carvalho.
Attempt missed. Ricardo Quaresma (Portugal) right footed shot from the left side of the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Renato Sanches.
Attempt missed. Daniel Sturridge (England) left footed shot from outside the box misses to the left. Assisted by Jack Wilshere.
Daniel Sturridge (England) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by André Gomes (Portugal).
Substitution, England. Adam Lallana replaces Wayne Rooney.
Substitution, England. Daniel Sturridge replaces Harry Kane.
Attempt blocked. Harry Kane (England) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Danilo Pereira (Portugal) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Wayne Rooney (England) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Danilo Pereira (Portugal).
Jack Wilshere (England) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Danilo Pereira (Portugal).
Offside, Portugal. Vieirinha tries a through ball, but Renato Sanches is caught offside.
Foul by Raheem Sterling (England).
Renato Sanches (Portugal) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Portugal. William Carvalho replaces João Moutinho.
Substitution, Portugal. Renato Sanches replaces Adrien Silva.
Foul by Eric Dier (England).
Ricardo Quaresma (Portugal) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Offside, England. Dele Alli tries a through ball, but Wayne Rooney is caught offside.
Substitution, England. Jack Wilshere replaces James Milner.
Substitution, England. Raheem Sterling replaces Jamie Vardy.
Foul by Gary Cahill (England).
André Gomes (Portugal) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Kyle Walker (England) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by André Gomes (Portugal).
Attempt saved. Eric Dier (England) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Dele Alli.
Foul by Jamie Vardy (England).