Chris Smalling Heads Winner After Bruno Alves Sees Red for Horror Tackle
Chris Smalling’s first international goal four minutes from time ensured England concluded their Euro 2016 preparations with a largely forgettable 1-0 win over 10-man Portugal at Wembley.
Roy Hodgson named captain Wayne Rooney alongside strikers Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy – marking the first time the attacking trio have started together.
But the hosts lacked fluency for the most part as those star names and others grappled worryingly with unfamiliar positions on the eve of a major competition.
Fernando Santos’ decision to rest star man Cristiano Ronaldo meant Portugal did not provide their anticipated threat before Bruno Alves showed little sign of the experience accrued over 85 caps when he flung himself through the air to kick Kane in the head 10 minutes before half-time.
England were unable to make their numerical advantage count before Smalling headed home a fine late left-wing cross from substitute Raheem Sterling to boost Wembley’s flagging pre-tournament optimism.
Vardy’s trademark harrying forced a poor clearance from Rui Patricio and, although Rooney was marginally offside when he forced the Portugal goalkeeper into a close-range save from Kane’s resulting cross, it represented a promising start for the new-look forward line.
Former Manchester United winger Nani took the captain’s armband and led the Portugal attack in Ronaldo’s absence, but he hacked a shot wildly off target after capitalising on a slack pass by James Milner in the 18th minute.
Rooney sent a header too close to Patricio from a Kyle Walker cross before the Tottenham right-back whistled a drive narrowly past the post.
These moments hinted towards England finding a rhythm otherwise absent from their play but the complexion of the contest changed in the 35th minute.
Kane, breaking forward from a right-flank role he appeared ill-suited to, was fortunate to escape a nasty injury when Alves careered towards him and caught his head with a flying boot, leaving referee Marco Guida with little option but to dismiss the 34-year-old.
Fortunately for Hodgson, Kane showed no ill-effects from Alves’ wild challenge.
There was no change in personnel for England at the interval and no subsequent upturn in their creative play – Eric Dier’s dipping long-range effort offering Patricio a rare workout as the reduced numbers in front of him remained relatively untroubled.
Highly-rated Portugal midfield duo Renato Sanches and William Carvalho were unable to rouse the dour fayre, a bustling run from the new Bayern Munich signing offering a glimpse of the excitement the match might have offered.
Sterling and Adam Lallana replaced Vardy and Rooney respectively to lend a more natural feel to England’s 4-3-3 and Daniel Sturridge, on for Kane, flashed a 25-yard volley wide.
As his array of attacking talent continued to misfire, Hodgson was bailed out by centre-back Smalling, although numerous questions remain over his starting line-up for next Saturday’s Group B opener versus Russia.
Santos at least has the consolation of a further warm-up versus Estonia next week and Ronaldo’s imminent return.