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Five talking points as England edge past spirited Aussies
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Mitchell Fretton at Wembley
Ollie Watkins scored as England see off Australia
Ollie Watkins scored as England see off Australia

England edged out Australia in a friendly on Friday night as Gareth Southgate opted to rotate his squad ahead of Tuesday's clash with Italy.

Ollie Watkins netted the only goal of the game but there were several opportunities for both teams over 90 minutes despite the numerous changes made by both managers in the second half.

Here are the key talking points from a chilly autumn night in London.

Chopped and changed

Gareth Southgate admitted the clash against the Aussies was a good chance to "give people opportunities to show what they can do" and it was no surprise to see several of England's stars left out of the starting XI.

The biggest of the Wembley Stadium cheers ahead of the match came as Harry Kane and Jude Bellingham's names were read out among the substitutes with the boss opting to give Conor Gallagher and Watkins a run-out.

And with a Euro 2024 qualifier against Italy on the horizon, it was a night of squad management for Southgate — although the changes did not deter the buoyant crowd from willing the Three Lions on.

Trying something new

Ollie Watkins was preferred to Harry Kane in attack
Ollie Watkins was preferred to Harry Kane in attack

With Kane rested, Aston Villa hotshot Watkins was able to put his stamp on the starting striker role and his contrasting style was obvious whenever England went forward.

Whereas the Bayern Munich marksman would look for the ball into feet and aim to dictate the play, Villa's No11 was willing to run in behind and beat the offside trap.

This gave the likes of Jack Grealish and James Maddison space to feed the 27-year-old who has already tallied eight goal contributions in as many Premier League matches this season.

He eventually got his third goal in an England shirt which was a just reward for his hard work throughout the game.

A fiery affair

International friendlies are usually a good way for teams to rotate their squads and prevent injuries, but the clash in the capital was full of flying tackles and yellow cards.

The rain in the first half was enough motivation for players from both sides to throw themselves into challenges and four players picked up a caution in the opening 45 minutes.

Those supporting stars from their domestic clubs will have been watching from behind the sofa as the risky tackles racked up and the Socceroos ended the night having committed 12 fouls, while England gave away eight.

Aussie excellence

Tackles were flying in across the pitch in England's win over Australia
Tackles were flying in across the pitch in England's win over Australia

Considering they were massive underdogs in the match, Australia gave a great account of themselves on their first visit to Wembley.

Harry Souttar in particular was a standout performer for Graham Arnold's side — the Leicester defender was instrumental in shutting the home side out for most of the game and he was a significant aerial threat from set pieces.

St Mirren's Keanu Baccus caught the eye having competed well with England's midfield three of Maddison, Jordan Henderson and Gallagher and he almost rounded off an excellent night with a goal but for Sam Johnstone's fingertip save.

Attention turns to Italy

England's performance suggested that their minds are very firmly focused on Tuesday's game but they will have to step things up if they are to complete the double over Gli Azzurri.

Southgate is likely to name a completely changed XI when the Three Lions return to Wembley but that will not guarantee a win against Luciano Spalletti's men.

Impressive cameos from Watkins, Maddison and Levi Colwill will put them in contention for a place but it would be a surprise to see the 53-year-old move away from his trusted system against a tougher opposition.


EnglandAustraliaOllie Watkins
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