Watkins Shines as England Triumphs Over Australia in a Friendly Match

Watkins Shines as England Triumphs Over Australia in a Friendly Match

England’s substitutes secured a 1-0 victory over Australia, courtesy of Ollie Watkins’ second-half goal. However, Jordan Henderson faced jeers from fans during Friday’s friendly at Wembley.

Gareth Southgate deployed an experimental lineup, resting most of the players expected to feature in the crucial Euro 2024 qualifier against Italy on Tuesday, a match that could secure England’s place in the tournament next year.

Few of Southgate’s reserve players managed to make a strong case for inclusion in the Italy game, as their performance was largely uninspiring.

Aston Villa striker Watkins is unlikely to displace England’s captain Harry Kane, who was rested for this match. Still, he did remind Southgate of his scoring abilities with a clinical finish.

There was disapproval directed at Henderson as he was substituted in the second half. The England stand-in captain has faced controversy over his inclusion in the squad due to his switch to Saudi Arabia, with critics accusing him of letting down the LGBTQ+ community after previously expressing support for them.

Although England and Australia have fierce rivalries in cricket and rugby, their football encounters are less intense due to their limited history of matches against each other. This meeting marked only the eighth time they had faced each other, with Australia having won just once in a 2003 friendly when a 17-year-old Wayne Rooney made his England debut.

This lackluster encounter is unlikely to be remembered for any notable moments, and the match concluded with many empty seats as fans left early.

In Southgate’s starting lineup, Henderson, Jack Grealish, and Trent Alexander-Arnold were the only players with more than 10 international caps, and their lack of cohesion was evident on the field.

The unfamiliar England lineup featured new faces, including Chelsea defender Levi Colwill, who made his debut in a back four alongside international newcomers Lewis Dunk and Fikayo Tomori.

Arsenal striker Eddie Nketiah had a subdued debut as a second-half substitute, while West Ham winger Jarrod Bowen failed to display the quality that makes him a key player for the Europa Conference League holders.

In their first meeting in seven years, Australia threatened with an early chance, as Keanu Baccus’s long-range curler forced a fine save from Sam Johnstone.

Mitchell Duke had a good opportunity to score, volleying just wide from 12 yards after easily finding space to meet Cameron Burgess’s cross, highlighting Australia’s ability to trouble England’s reshuffled defense.

Kye Rowles missed a close-range chance after England struggled to clear Martin Boyle’s corner.

England briefly came to life when James Maddison’s excellent pass split the Australia defense, sending Watkins through on goal. His low shot hit the post before Watkins converted the rebound from close range in the 57th minute, giving England the lead.