Chris Smalling sent England to Euro 2016 on the back of another win, but the late header could not mask an underwhelming display against Portugal.
The third and final preparation game was always likely to prove the toughest, but few expected a toothless and disjointed attack to be the main concern against the side eighth in the world.
England’s defence had been the overriding concern ahead of the Wembley encounter, but Roy Hodgson’s inability to effectively shoehorn the attacking triumvirate of Wayne Rooney, Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy into the same line-up was the main issue in the 1-0 win against the 10 men of Portugal.
Smalling’s late header was one of few moments for the sell-out Wembley crowd to shout about, with Vardy and Kane struggling to make an impact either side of Rooney as England lacked attacking coherence and edge.
Even the first-half sending off of Bruno Alves for a horrific high challenge on Kane did little to help on a night punctuated by poor passes and choices.
The struggles of Vardy, Rooney and Kane will dominate much of the post-match conversation, but at least England head into the Group B opener against Russia on the back of a win courtesy of Smalling’s first international goal. It was an exciting end to a match that started slowly and continued in a similar vein with the 36th minute sending off of Alves effectively killing the game as a contest.
Kane appeared to be of little threat when challenging for the ball wide on the right, yet defender Alves inexplicably flew in with a head-high challenge that led referee Marco Guida to brandish a red card.
When they re-emerged for the second period Portugal shored things up at the back and England struggled to find a way through the lines until four minutes from time when substitute Raheem Sterling bent in a right-footed cross and Smalling darted in to direct a header past Rui Patricio.