England leaves it late to defeat 10-men Portugal

England leaves it late to defeat 10-men Portugal

England finished their warm-up ahead of Euro 2016 in a lackluster international friendly against Portugal, leaving it late to score the winning goal to end the match 1-0.

Roy Hodgson’s 23-man squad for the tournament, packed with a strong forward ensemble, did not look threatening for much of 90 minutes. Wayne Rooney was plonked down at the middle as Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy – visibly uncomfortable – were played wide.

In fact, it was as unfortunate as it was awkward that two of the Premier League’s top scorers – both central strikers – were being played as part-time wingers. Additionally, with Kane pulling to the right most of the time and his Tottenham teammate Dele Alli playing left on the midfield, there was none of those magical link-up play often saw during their time together with the club.

But the team can revel in relief as Portugal simply lack the pedigree to move up or seriously threaten Joe Hart. They looked uninspired without talismanic forward Cristiano Ronaldo, and their situation worsened early.

In the 35th minute, Bruno Alves was sent-off immediately for his flying, studs up challenge that caught the side of Harry Kane’s head. It did not even faze Kane; he stumbled, but quickly went back on his feet in pursuit of the ball. There was little argument that it was the right call for referee Marco Guida to stop play and pull out a straight red.

Still, then it was only with minutes left that England got the job done. Raheem Sterling, coming on for Vardy, showed how a winger does his job. He swung a cross into the box, where Chris Smalling glancing header puts it into the back Portugal’s net.

But as the fourth favourite in Euro 2016, anyone could tell that if England has any desire to claim the trophy in France, the team needs to perform a lot better than this.

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