LONDON: England’s Ollie Watkins marked his international return with a second-half winner as their much-changed side beat Australia 1-0 in a friendly at a wet Wembley Stadium on Friday (Oct 13).
With a key Euro 2024 qualifier against holders Italy on Tuesday, manager Gareth Southgate used the opportunity to rest first team regulars and give game time to some squad players.
Only three of the starting 11 had more thanr 10 caps, with 10 changes to the side that beat Scotland 3-1 in England’s last international and Chelsea defender Levi Colwill making his debut.
Watkins, returning for the first time since March 2022, tapped the ball in at the far post in the 57th minute after Jack Grealish fired across goal. It was the Aston Villa forward’s second successive goal for England, but 563 days apart.
Southgate rang the changes after the break against opponents who could easily have been ahead in the first half, with Watkins making way for debutant Eddie Nketiah in the 73rd among a flurry of substitutions.
The match was only England’s second friendly since March last year.
Both teams wore black armbands and there was a minute’s silence for the victims of the conflict in Israel and Palestine.
The Football Association’s decision not to light up the stadium’s arch in blue and white in solidarity with Israel, following last week’s attacks by Palestinian militant group Hamas, earned a government rebuke on Thursday.