England 1-0 Austria: Saka strikes but Alexander-Arnold injury clouds win
Trent Alexander-Arnold suffered a late injury as England stepped up Euro 2020 preparations with a 1-0 win over Austria that was secured by Bukayo Saka's first senior international goal.
Manager Gareth Southgate was shorn of the Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United players likely to be key at the upcoming tournament, and he fielded a relatively inexperienced team for Wednesday's friendly in Middlesbrough.
It was one of the youngsters to have made the final 26-man squad who proved decisive, Arsenal winger Saka tucking into an empty net early in the second half to mark his fifth Three Lions appearance with a maiden goal.
Yet the biggest moment came late on, when Alexander-Arnold – whose inclusion in the squad has been a hot topic – suffered an apparent muscular injury in inconspicuous circumstances, which will surely cast doubt over his availability for the tournament.
All that was missing from England's start, at least from Southgate's perspective, was a goal. Alexander-Arnold had a shot turned just over and Jude Bellingham saw an effort disallowed for offside.
Saka lashed over from a tight angle, but England's first real chance fell to talisman Harry Kane just before the half-hour mark – Daniel Bachmann rushing out to make a brave stop.
England's breakthrough finally came three minutes before the hour. Jesse Lingard, who has not been named in the tournament squad, nudged a ball through to Jack Grealish, and although an Austria defender got there first, Saka was on hand to finish it off.
Southgate swiftly took the opportunity to make a raft of changes, and Ben Godfrey almost marred his debut with a calamitous own goal, his blushes spared by club-mate Jordan Pickford.
England goalkeeper Pickford was in the thick of it again moments later, making an excellent stop to tip Marcel Sabitzer's effort onto the bar.
Yet England's night turned sour in the final minutes, as Alexander-Arnold pulled up after clearing the ball. He appeared to be clutching his left thigh as he trudged off the pitch, with the medical staff having to help him walk to the tunnel.
Austria had one final chance to compound England's frustration, but Ben White made a goal-line clearance to ensure victory, albeit a potentially costly one.
What does it mean? Two in two on Teesside
This was only England’s second ever match at the Riverside Stadium, after a 2-1 win over Slovakia in June 2003 when they came from behind to win with a brace from Michael Owen.
It was also a first meeting with Austria since 2007. Indeed, the scoreline in that match was the same, with Peter Crouch netting the winner on that occasion.
Saka became only the third Arsenal teenager to score for England, after Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The 19-year-old is the only Gunners player in the entire 26-man squad.
Torrid look for Trent
It all appeared to be heading towards a routine win for England, but Southgate will now be left worrying over the fitness of Alexander-Arnold, and a decision will have to be made quickly over to whether to risk including the Liverpool full-back.
Southgate has four right-backs in his squad, and does have up until the first game – on June 13 – to change his selection, with James Ward-Prowse and Lingard potential options, given midfield is an area which does not appear to be fully stocked heading into the tournament.
Key Opta facts
- England have won their last seven friendly matches, their best run in friendlies since winning seven in a row under Bobby Robson between June 1985 and May 1986.
- Austria have lost consecutive matches for the first time since losing to Poland and Israel in March 2019.
- Bellingham became the youngest player to start a game for England (17y 338d) since Wayne Rooney in September 2003 vs Liechtenstein (17y 321d).
- England have not lost any of their last 19 matches when an Arsenal player has scored (W17 D2) since Francis Jeffers scored in a 3-1 home defeat to Australia in February 2003.
- Saka was the 33rd different player to score a goal for England under Southgate, one more than scored for the Three Lions under Bobby Robson and the most since 39 scored under Alf Ramsey.
- Substitute White became the fifth Brighton and Hove Albion player to play for England, after Tommy Cook, Peter Ward, Steve Foster and Lewis Dunk. England have won all seven matches when Brighton players have featured, the best 100 per cent win record when players from a club represent the England national team.
England are back at the Riverside Stadium on Sunday, hosting Romania in their final pre-tournament friendly, while Austria face Slovakia.