England recorded a 2-1 over Australia tonight at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland. The main storyline going into the match is that England would have to do without Leicester's star man Jamie Vardy, who's scored 3 goals in his past 3 international appearances.
England manager Roy Hodgson looked to replace Vardy's energy with young Manchester United starlet Marcus Rashford, who was granted his first senior debut. Rashford put in a Man of the Match performance, all but guaranteeing himself a place in Hodgson's 23-man England squad.
The Three Lions flew out of the starting gate going up 1-0 in the third minute. Off a deflected cross from Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford immediately pounced on the loose ball, and the young Englishman smashed it past the keeper on the volley.
As the half progressed however, the midfield became compact. Australia took the upper hand, stifling England's play. The Three Lions looked to defend deep, giving up possession in order to break forward with deadly pace, almost identical to the philosophy of Leicester City.
But, thanks to the crowded midfield, it became extremely difficult to execute direct play. The English midfielders lost this battle, growing seemingly unable to communicate with the defense.
Leicester's Danny Drinkwater earned a start in this midfield, but found it hard to make a mark in the game. Normally a dominating presence in the middle of the park when playing alongside N'Golo Kanté for the Foxes, Drinkwater clearly struggled in the diamond formation, looking extremely nervous on the ball and misplaying multiple passes.
As a player he seems more comfortable alongside a partner, allowing him a sense of security as he looks to pressure the ball. It also didn't help that Jack Wilshere and Adam Lallana weren't exactly on their game, with Wilshere still struggling for fitness and Lallana offering little both offensively and on defense.
Into the second half Drinkwater looked slightly more comfortable alongside James Milner and Jordan Henderson in a 4-3-3 formation, making a greater impact in disrupting Australia's play and placing some crisper passes in transition from defense to attack, but never seemed to provide a threatening ball.
This may be a little harsh, as Drinkwater always seems to contribute more to the attack when Vardy is leading the line, as the midfielder is more accustomed to his various runs and overall tactics.
With the recent inclusion of Rashford in the England squad, Drinkwater has had very little time to adapt to the style of the young striker. This was seen in the apparent lack of chemistry and could definitely be the reason for his inability to provide a danger ball.
That said, it's fair to say that his overall performance didn't do any favors for Drinkwater's chances of locking down a spot in England's 23-man squad.
The second half provided a goal for either side. England's goal came on the break after a nice crisp pass across the field from Raheem Sterling to the returning captain Wayne Rooney, who powered the long range shot past the keeper, making it 2-0 to the Three Lions.
Australia earned themselves a consolation goal in the latter stages of the game through a bizarre Eric Dier own goal and pressed on till the final whistle.
Overall, the squad didn't look all that flattering tonight against a much weaker Australia side. It will be interesting to see whom Hodgson selects for Thursday's third and final friendly fixture against Portugal.