The Socceroos’ bid to emulate their upset win over England from 20 years ago has fallen short at Wembley Stadium, with a gallant Australian performance not enough to avoid a 1-0 loss.
A second-half goal from Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins proved the difference on Saturday morning in front of more than 81,000 fans.
The Socceroos came within centimetres of equalising in the 80th minute when a head from midfielder Connor Metcalfe hit the post.
That was the closest the Socceroos came to scoring as they couldn’t repeat the heroics of the 2003 Australian team that beat England 3-1 at Upton Park.
However, there was plenty to like about the Socceroos’ performance ahead of next week’s clash against New Zealand, which is also being played in London.
England also has another game next week, a Euro 2024 qualifier against Italy.
And with that in mind, England manager Gareth Southgate fielded an experimental starting 11, with a host of his top players – including star striker Harry Kane and in-form Real Madrid midfielder Jude Bellingham – among the substitutes.
Kane and Bellingham watched the entire game from the bench, not required, as England did enough to secure victory despite the Australians showing glimpses of class.
The Socceroos had a handful of first-half chances but couldn’t convert any of them.
A volley from striker Mitch Duke flew just wide of the post in the 22nd minute, while defender Kye Rowles twice had opportunities, the second of which he should have at least hit the target after England had failed to properly deal with a Martin Boyle corner.
Hibernian winger Boyle caused the hosts plenty of problems and set up the Socceroos’ best chance of the first half when he fed unmarked right back Ryan Strain in the 44th minute.
However, Strain’s shot, while goal-bound, lacked conviction and was cleared to safety by England’s Brighton defender Lewis Dunk.
The home side’s best chance of the opening stanza came in the 29th minute when Watkins beat the Socceroos’ offside trap before seeming certain to score when he rounded goalkeeper Mat Ryan.
However, the Australians avoided falling behind, with Watkins’ shot hitting the base of the post.
But Watkins made amends in the 57th minute tapping the ball home from close range after the Socceroos defence had allowed Manchester City star Jack Grealish to drift free at the far post.
Picked out by a cross from Trent Alexander-Arnold, Grealish knocked the ball back across the goalmouth, with Watkins on hand to score his three goal in eight international appearances.
While the match was a friendly, there was enough feeling in the contest for Socceroos midfielder Keanu Baccus and England ‘s debutant Levi Colwill to shove each other, which resulted in both receiving yellow cards from French referee Stephanie Frappart.
Socceroos coach Graham Arnold gave international debuts to right back Lewis Miller and striker Mohamed Toure, who both came on as second-half substitutes.