Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins scored his third goal for England in his eighth international appearanceOllie Watkins marked his return to the England side with the winner as Gareth Southgate’s side overcame Australia in a friendly at Wembley.
Aston Villa striker Watkins turned in Jack Grealish’s shot from almost on the goalline just before the hour in one of the few positive moments in a largely undistinguished England display.
Watkins made amends for hitting the post with a good chance in the first half as Australia paid the price for not taking advantage of several opportunities before the break.
In a game which saw Stephanie Frappart become the first female referee to take charge of a men’s international at Wembley, England were fortunate not to be behind at half-time.
Sam Johnstone, given his chance in goal, saved well from Keanu Baccus while Mitchell Duke volleyed inches wide and Lewis Dunk cleared off the line from Ryan Strain.
Australia also wasted a good chance to level late on when Connor Metcalfe hit the post with a header as England secured a morale-boosting win before Tuesday’s Euro 2024 qualifier with Italy at Wembley.
There was one contentious moment amid a very subdued atmosphere when the name of Jordan Henderson, England’s captain for the night with Harry Kane left on the bench, was jeered as Southgate’s substitutions were announced to the crowd after 62 minutes.
Henderson’s decision to pursue his career with Al-Ettifaq in the Saudi Pro League after leaving Liverpool has attracted criticism and it was clear many among the Wembley gallery wanted to make their feelings known as he walked off.
Follow live coverage of England v AustraliaWembley silence for victims in Israel and Gaza – FAFA ‘tried to make best decision’ on Israel & Gaza – SouthgateFrappart first female official to referee a men’s international match at WembleyNo threats to England’s established starsThis was a low-key affair from start to finish, although Watkins will be delighted to get back on the mark for England with the simplest of finishes to settle this game.
It was an important moment for the 27-year-old – who has just been handed a new five-year contract at Villa as reward for his outstanding early season form – because he had endured a frustrating night up to that point.
Watkins may consider himself unlucky to hit the post with an angled first half effort but he should have scored after rounding Australia keeper Mathew Ryan.
What is never in doubt with Watkins is his effort and application. There was no let-up in his work ethic and he was on the spot to take the simple chance for his goal after 57 minutes.
Crystal Palace keeper Johnstone had a very steady night in in goal, including that good save from Baccus while Dunk also made his mark with that vital clearance off the line from Strain.
Elsewhere, England did not flow and often looked like strangers, perhaps understandable as Southgate fielded an experimental line-up before the crucial Wembley date with Italy, giving first caps to Chelsea’s Levi Colwill in his starting line-up then Arsenal striker Eddie Nketiah as a late substitute.
None of England’s shadow squad let themselves down but nor did anyone give Southgate pause for thought as he weighs up his future options.
Attention now switches to Tuesday, when Southgate will turn to his world-class stars such as captain Kane and Real Madrid’s Jude Bellingham, who were kept back and will be fresh as England attempt to take another significant step towards next summer’s Euro 2024 finals in Germany.
Player of the match
with an average of 6.89
EnglandSquad number5Player nameDunk
Squad number9Player nameWatkins
Squad number2Player nameAlexander-Arnold
Squad number1Player nameJohnstone
Squad number11Player nameBowen
Squad number10Player nameMaddison
Squad number7Player nameGrealish
Squad number21Player nameFoden
Squad number3Player nameColwill
Squad number6Player nameTomori
Squad number12Player nameTrippier
Squad number16Player nameStones
Squad number19Player nameRashford
Squad number23Player namePhillips
Squad number4Player nameGallagher
Squad number25Player nameNketiah
Squad number8Player nameHenderson
AustraliaSquad number3Player nameBurgess
Squad number19Player nameSouttar
Squad number11Player nameMabil
Squad number22Player nameIrvine
Squad number20Player nameBaccus
Squad number17Player nameMiller
Squad number1Player nameRyan
Squad number5Player nameBos
Squad number9Player nameBorrello
Squad number10Player nameGoodwin
Squad number8Player nameMetcalfe
Squad number6Player nameBoyle
Squad number15Player nameDuke
Squad number16Player nameBehich
Squad number13Player nameStrain
Squad number26Player nameTouré
Squad number4Player nameRowles
1Johnstone2Alexander-Arnold6TomoriSubstituted forStonesat 62’minutes5Dunk3ColwillBooked at 34mins4GallagherBooked at 35minsSubstituted forPhillipsat 62’minutes8HendersonSubstituted forTrippierat 62’minutes11Bowen10MaddisonSubstituted forFodenat 73’minutes7GrealishSubstituted forRashfordat 61’minutes9WatkinsSubstituted forNketiahat 73’minutesSubstitutes12Trippier13Pickford14Maguire15Walker16Stones17Guéhi18Rice19Rashford20Kane21Foden22Ramsdale23Phillips24Bellingham25NketiahAustraliaFormation 4-4-1-1
1Ryan13StrainBooked at 40minsSubstituted forMillerat 74’minutes19Souttar3Burgess4RowlesSubstituted forBehichat 83’minutes6BoyleSubstituted forMabilat 83’minutes20BaccusBooked at 34mins22IrvineBooked at 79mins10GoodwinSubstituted forBorrelloat 73’minutes8MetcalfeSubstituted forTouréat 90’minutes15DukeSubstituted forBosat 73’minutesSubstitutes2Degenek5Bos7Silvera9Borrello11Mabil12Redmayne14O’Neill16Behich17Miller18Glover21Luongo23Circati24McGree25Yazbek26TouréReferee:Stéphanie Frappart
Live TextMatch ends, England 1, Australia 0.
Second Half ends, England 1, Australia 0.
Attempt blocked. Jackson Irvine (Australia) header from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Awer Mabil with a cross.
Substitution, Australia. Mohamed Touré replaces Connor Metcalfe.
Attempt blocked. Harry Souttar (Australia) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Awer Mabil with a cross.
Corner, Australia. Conceded by Levi Colwill.
Attempt saved. Connor Metcalfe (Australia) header from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Awer Mabil with a cross.
Corner, Australia. Conceded by Levi Colwill.
Foul by Marcus Rashford (England).
Lewis Miller (Australia) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Corner, England. Conceded by Awer Mabil.
Substitution, Australia. Aziz Behich replaces Kye Rowles.
Substitution, Australia. Awer Mabil replaces Martin Boyle.
Foul by Eddie Nketiah (England).
Keanu Baccus (Australia) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Phil Foden (England) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Brandon Borrello (Australia).
Connor Metcalfe (Australia) hits the right post with a header from very close range. Assisted by Martin Boyle with a cross following a corner.
Corner, Australia. Conceded by Kieran Trippier.
Jackson Irvine (Australia) is shown the yellow card.