England beat Austria in a less-than-enthralling friendly at the Riverside Stadium on Wednesday as both teams prepare for the upcoming European Championship.
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Concerningly for England, Trent Alexander-Arnold, who was a late inclusion in the Three Lions’ Euro squad, limped off near full-time with an apparent injury as the hosts saw out the match.
A lacklustre first half saw few chances for either side, with Harry Kane coming closest around the half-hour on a close-range shot that was saved by Austria’s keeper as the opening 45 minutes ended scoreless.
Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka finally opened the scoring in the match in the 56th minute, slotting home from a tight angle after the ball fell to him at the far post from and England counter-attack.
There was also a first senior start for Borussia Dortmund’s 17-year-old midfielder Jude Bellingham, while Brighton & Hove Albion defender Ben White collected his first cap as a 71st minute substitute.
Alexander-Arnold appeared to have pulled a thigh muscle with nobody near him as he kicked the ball with his left foot and was then booked for returning to the pitch without permission, with England having used up all their substitutes and left with 10 men.
“It’s not a good sign to see him have to walk off as he did,” Southgate told ITV television. “We’ll know more in the next 24-48 hours.
“Let’s see how Trent is first and then we’ll go from there.”
Jordan Pickford made some confident saves to press his claims to be first-choice goalkeeper, punching the ball clear in extra time and tipping onto the bar as Austria threatened a late equaliser.
“I thought we started very well. We used the ball well in the first hour or so,” said Southgate. “We were playing against a very good team who have got some very good players.
“The first hour was good in terms of quality. After that we needed to make a lot of changes, we needed to preserve people. We got a bit disjointed and a couple were getting cramp.
“We were hanging on at the end but I think it was understandable given all the changes we had to make.”
Fans could heard booing when both teams took a knee in support of racial justice before kick-off — a common gesture performed at football matches since last summer.
“I did hear it. It’s not something on behalf of our black players that I wanted to hear because it feels as though it is a criticism of them,” Southgate said. “I think we have got a situation where some people seem to think it is a political stand that they don’t agree with. That’s not the reason the players are doing it. We are supporting each other.
“I was pleased that was drowned out by the majority of the crowd but we can’t deny the fact that it happened. I think the most important thing for our players to know is that all their teammates, all the staff are fully supportive. I think the majority of people understand it, some people aren’t quite understanding the message and I suppose we are seeing that across a number of football grounds at the moment.”
Next up for England is a friendly against Romania on Sunday before Gareth Southgate’s side opens their European Championship campaign against Croatia in Group D on June 13.