It’s hard to know what will have unnerved Gareth Southgate more in the closing moments of this hitherto uneventful game on Teesside.
Strange as it sounds, it may not have been the sight of Trent Alexander-Arnold limping round the perimeter of the field after pulling up on the far side.
It would be desperately unfortunate for the Liverpool full-back if he were to go down lame now but England are, as we know, well-stocked for right-backs.
Trent Alexander-Arnold is helped off the pitch after picking up an injury late in the game
The full-back raises his shirt over his head after picking up his leg injury during the match
Conor Coady attends to Alexander-Arnold who looked concerned with his left thigh
England boss Gareth Southgate consoles the defender as he limps down the tunnel
More worrying for the England manager may well have been hearing Jack Grealish call for ice to be applied to his fragile right shin shortly after being substituted. It already feels as though Grealish will have a prominent part to play in this summer’s European Championship if he can just stay fit.
But then it may have been just about the final act of the night that troubles Southgate more than anything.
Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford’s extraordinary decision to leap recklessly and dangerously above his own defender Ben Godfrey to try to punch clear a harmless ball almost led to a goal.
Ben White had to clear the subsequent follow up shot from the line and that was all that stood between a victory becoming a draw that Austria really would not have deserved.
Bukayo Saka had earlier scored the winning goal for England in a 1-0 win over Austria
The Arsenal star celebrates scoring his first international goal at the Riverside Stadium
England (4-3-3): Pickford, Alexander-Arnold, Coady, Mings (Godfrey 62), Trippier, Grealish (White 71), Rice (Ward-Prowse 61), Bellingham, Lingard (Watkins 61), Kane (Calvert-Lewin 61), Saka.
Subs not used: Johnstone, Ramsdale, Phillips, Jordan Henderson
Goal: Saka 56
Booked: Calvert-Lewin, Alexander-Arnold
Austria (4-4-2): Bachmann, Dragovic, Hinteregger, Friedl, Lainer (Trimmel 81), Baumgartner (Schaub 62), Laimer (Grillitsch 62), Xaver Schlager (Baumgartlinger 81), Alaba (Schopf 72), Sabitzer, Kalajdzic (Gregoritsch 71).
Subs not used: Pervan, Alexander Schlager, Ilsanker, Lienhart, Posch, Ulmer.
Referee: Lawrence Visser (Belgium)
Pickford smiled as he left the field at the end and that’s fair enough. No point dwelling on these things. He had earlier produced a very good save to deny Marcel Sabitzer, touching his 20-yard shot on to the crossbar.
But, equally, these are the moments that can cost you in a big tournament. Pickford has worked hard on his concentration and his focus this season. Southgate referenced it last week. It is to be hoped that this was the one lapse that the Everton goalkeeper had to get out of his system before the serious stuff starts at the back end of next week.
As far as Alexander-Arnold goes, he can only wait. He had enjoyed a productive night but just as all the fuss about his inclusion in the squad had started to die down, he put his foot through a late clearance and clearly felt something in his thigh. Muscle injuries are unpredictable. Some recover quicker than others but his chances of starting the opening game of the tournament against Croatia – already slim – would now appear to have receded further.
Grealish should have a better prognosis. He has been nursing a shin injury for some time and the chances are he will ease it through this tournament. If he can do so while playing like this then he will very valuable indeed.
Jack Grealish ended the game with an icepack on his shin as a precaution after a strong display
The midfielder helped create England’s goal in a match where he was persistently fouled
This was an unspectacular evening for England but that’s often the way with pre-tournament friendlies. Nobody expects fireworks at this stage. It was a 6/10 performance but Grealish and Saka were two of the stand out performers.
Both were targeted by an Austria team that was not afraid to play physically but neither were daunted by that and combined to produce a winning goal in the 56th minute.
Jude Bellingham – partnering Declan Rice at the base of the midfield – muscled his way to possession and when he fed Grealish, he was able to move forwards before supplying Harry Kane on the left.
Kane’s ball to the top of the penalty area was then laid in to Grealish’s path nicely by Jesse Lingard only for Austria’s Marcel Sabitzer to tackle. When the ball rolled to Saka on the left he could not miss and did not. It was his first international goal.
England went close to scoring early in the game through Alexander-Arnold’s rising drive
Harry Kane captained England as the Three Lions prepared for the European Championship
Kane had a chance to score in the first half thwarted by the Austria keeper Daniel Bachmann
England had started the night playing that kind of football. They moved the ball well and used the width of the field. Kane supplied Alexander-Arnold were a superb long pass in the fourth minute and his shot was touched over. Then, from the resulting corner, Bellingham headed in to the goalkeeper’s arms before a Lingard cross was soon half-cleared to Saka who volleyed over.
It was all bright and promising and expansive but it did not last. Indeed by half-time focus had turned to footage showing Tyrone Mings body checking an opponent on the edge of his own penalty area. The officials did not spot the incident and there was no VAR in use here. But again a lesson must be learned. If Mings does not later in the summer, it will in all likelihood end his tournament.
Austria, ranked 23rd in the world, were keen to break up the game whenever was possible but they did grow in to the contest in the second half.
Pickford’s save from Sabitzer was a sharp one and that came moments after Godfrey – one of four players no longer in Southgate’s tournament squad to be used here – had almost marked his own debut by passing the ball in to his own goal.
Austria rallied late in the game with Jordan Pickford saving an effort from Marcel Sabitzer
In stoppage time debutant and substitute Ben White cleared off the line to seal the victory
Late on, Austria enjoyed some persistent possession. Substitute Michael Gregoritsch headed a really good chance wide when left unmarked and then came Pickford’s moment of rash judgement.
So England may have turned victory in to something less palatable at the death and there should be a lesson in there. Concentration levels in the last five minutes were maybe not what they should be.
Nevertheless, Southgate will have seen some things to encourage him. Bellingham, on his first start, was another young player who advanced his case for a place in the team for the Croatia game.
Southgate has options this summer and in all likelihood will need them.
Southgate applauds the supporters inside the Riverside Stadium following the friendly win
White applauds the fans as Pickford shares a discussion with Everton team-mate Ben Godfrey
RE-LIVE ALL THE ACTION AS IT HAPPENED…
England begin their preparation for Euro 2020 when they take on Austria in their first warm up game ahead of the tournament at the Riverside Stadium.
Gareth Southgate has named an experimental team for the clash against their fellow qualifiers, with the match kicking off at 8pm BST.