ENGLAND 2, SWITZERLAND 1
England kicked off their World Cup year with an unconvincing friendly victory against Switzerland at Wembley.
Goals from Luke Shaw, an unlikely source, and regular predator Harry Kane helped Gareth Southgate’s side come from behind to triumph and inflict a first defeat on Swiss manager Murat Yakin.
England were completely outplayed in the opening period, falling behind to a Breel Embolo goal only for Shaw to unexpectedly equalise in stoppage time.
Shaw is hardly noted for his goalscoring prowess, three goals in 279 club games yet this was his second strike in 20 matches for England.
There was no denying the pedigree of matchwinner Kane who scored his 49th goal for England to overhaul Gary Lineker and draw level with Sir Bobby Charlton. Only Wayne Rooney, with 53, is now ahead of him.Embed from Getty Images
Southgate said: “Really good test, we know they are a very good side and a great challenge for us.
“We had to go behind and had tactical problems and had to defend. Towards the end we brought on experienced and top players and finished the game on top.
“In the second half, we were just about the value for the win.
We learned a lot about some new players and some inexperienced players in an international shirt.”
Southgate praised Kane, saying: “His name is among incredible ones and he appreciates that history and he looks favourite to get the record, without wanting to put a curse on it.
“He has a dual drive and also individual ambition and that mentality spreads throughout the group.”
Captain Kane said: “Tough game. A big year ahead and a chance for us to try different systems and formations to see how we get on. I felt it was a good performance but room for improvement but a good win to start the year.
“We rotated the squad, new faces getting debuts, and these are the games you have to try stuff. There is not a lot of time between now and the World Cup.
“The new boys did great, really well. Marc Guehi got the penalty and good to see the young players coming on. You want to start your England career with a win and thankfully we did that.”
And of his own goalscoring milestone, Kane added: “You have to be ready for any chance at any moment. Penalties are a great way of getting on the scoresheet, I practice and work on them a lot.
“It is amazing company to be with, super proud to be doing that but we look forward to the next one. A big year ahead to get more caps and more goals. I will be ready for Tuesday, but it is down to the manager.”
Shaw added: “In this formation with a five, Gareth and Steve [Holland] have talked a lot about the wing backs not just creating chances but also scoring goals and I think that’s vital.
“It’s nice for me to add another one to the tally, I’ve not got many. It’s always nice to score here in front of your fans and hopefully there are more to come.
“It’s the best feeling, a special feeling, sometimes you can’t get your head around it – but, more importantly, tonight was about the performance, winning the game and keeping that momentum going.
“We mixed the team up, there were a lot of players who made their debuts and they should all be very proud of their performances because I think they were all excellent.
“The environment here that Gareth creates you always enjoy it – when I come here it’s about enjoyment and playing games with a smile on my face and enjoying it and I feel like when I come here, I always do that.”
Southgate handed Crystal Palace centre-back Marc Guehi and Southampton full-back Kyle Walker-Peters their Three Lions debuts.
There was later a third international bow with Guehi’s club teammate Tyrick Mitchell among the substitutes and there was a real Eagles’ flavour to the squad with Palace’s on-loan Chelsea midfielder Conor Gallagher earning his second cap.
There were starts for Manchester City pair Phil Foden and United’s Luke Shaw. John Stones was also named in the side but was injured in the warm-up and replaced by Arsenal’s Ben White.
But Reds’ captain Harry Maguire and City pair Jack Grealish and Raheem Sterling were named as substitutes.
Switzerland included Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka and ex-Liverpool playmaker Xherdan Shaqiri, who was earning his 99th cap, in their starting line-up.
The two teams came together pre-match in a show of support for the people of war-torn Ukraine as they were pictured with their national flag with the word ‘peace’ written on it.
After an uneventful opening, Gallagher carved out England’s first chance in the 14th minute, cutting in from the right and seeing his on-target goal attempt headed away for a corner by Fabian Frei.
The game exploded to life as Xhaka forced a decent save from Pickford low to his left.
Moments later Switzerland took a 22nd minute lead when Shaqiri’s cross was headed home by Breel Embolo from eight yards, low to the left of the static Pickford as he got in-between White and Walker-Peters. There was a lengthy delay for a VAR check for a potential offside in the build-up, but the Borussia Monchengladbach striker’s ninth international goal stood.
And it might have been even worse for England soon after when a corner found central defender Frei free on the far side of the box and his sweetly-struck half volley was superbly turned on to the crossbar by Pickford.
Overlapping wing-back Walker-Peters struck the upright, but the assistant referee had flagged for a clear offside in the build-up.
England were lucky not to concede again when Switzerland struck the near upright from Shaqiri’s corner, Ricardo Rodriguez’s follow-up was well kept out by Pickford and Embolo then dragged the third attempt of the same move wide.
After being comprehensively outplayed, England equalised in first-half stoppage time.
Walker-Peters intercepted a poor clearance by Frei and Gallagher squared a pass for Shaw to drive home the leveller from the edge of the box.
It was his second international goal, the other being the quickest-ever goal in the final of Euro 2020 against Italy.
Shaw has been directly involved in six goals in his last eight games for England, two goals and four assists.
But the first half stats told it all, nine goal attempts by Switzerland to two from England.
The England players reappeared without names on their shirt to highlight how people living with dementia lose precious memories – including the names of their favourite players.
England began far more positively as Kane was denied by a block by goalkeeper Jonas Omlin while Conor Coady, sliding in at the far post, just failed to convert Guehi’s glanced header from a corner.
Just after the hour there were eight substitutions at the same time, five by England and three by the Swiss.
Southgate introduced Sterling, Mitchell, Maguire, Declan Rice and Grealish for Walker-Peters, Shaw, Coady, Gallagher and Mason Mount.
Mitchell became the 100th different player used by Southgate since he became manager.
Kane had a great chance to score his 49th goal but headed straight at Omlin from a super hanging cross by Mitchell.
Kane was not to be denied as eight minute later he found the net from the penalty spot following handball by Steven Zuber from Guehi’s header.
Swedish referee Andreas Ekberg waved play on, but the decision was reviewed by VAR who were unable to make a definitive ruling so sent the match official to the pitchside monitor when he overturned his initial call.
Kane’s successful kick was England’s 100th penalty in international football, excluding shootouts, and the Spurs striker has scored 14 of the total.
England made a sixth change when Mount was replaced by Jude Bellingham followed by a seventh as Kane made way for Ollie Watkins in the 88th minute.