Racy Rashford and Rooney’s Rocket


England 2-1 Australia

Eighteen-year-old Marcus Rashford became the youngest ever England debut goalscorer, finding the net just two minutes in. His Manchester United teammate Wayne Rooney scored a blistering second, before Eric Dier registered England’s second own-goal in as many years – both from midfielders.

After midfielder Fabian Delph was dropped from the provisional squad through injury, only three of the starting eleven against Turkey retained their spots here: Jack Wilshere, John Stones and Raheem Sterling. Chris Smalling captained the England team for the first time. Adam Lallana, Ryan Bertrand, Danny Drinkwater and debutant Marcus Rashford all started in an eleven where the oldest player, Fraser Forster, is still only twenty-eight.

With just two minutes on the clock, England avoided conceding and then scored with just twenty seconds between. As Australia debutant Jamie Maclaren chased down Fraser Forster, the goalkeeper’s clearance came smashing back off the striker. Luckily for Roy Hodgson’s side, Forster gathered up the ball and rolled it out to Stones. At reasonable pace, the team slid the ball between themselves. Marcus Rashford received the ball. He passed out wide to Sterling, whose cross came spinning awkwardly off the back of his marker – Preston North End’s Bailey Wright. The ball dropped right in front of Rashford, who swung at it on the full volley. The ball flew underneath goalkeeper Matthew Ryan and into the net. Without even a moment of hesitation, Rashford and his teammates ran to the corner flag of Sunderland’s Stadium of Light to celebrate England’s early goal. For the first time since way before Hodgson’s appointment, England had scored within the first three minutes of two internationals in a row. Later in the half, Ryan Bertrand stole the ball off of right-back Josh Risdon, before Adam Lallana’s finish was saved well from close-range by goalkeeper Ryan.

Wayne Rooney and James Milner replaced Jack Wilshere and Adam Lallana at the break. Both sides began slowly after the interval, but from Raheem Sterling’s corner, Jordan Henderson whipped the ball on target, only for the stretching Ryan to tip the ball over. Australia, controlling the match for large parts [similar to Turkey on Sunday] continued to struggle with England’s strength on the counter. As Sterling was set free on the left-wing, he found Rooney in the centre. The Manchester United skipper was left with acres of room. His first touch set him up to fire the ball home with beautiful accuracy right into the roof of the net from just outside the box. Wayne Rooney is strengthening his goalscoring record, he now has fifty-two.

The Three Lions again countered soon after, with Sterling feeding Rashford, whose cross for Rooney trickled just behind him and wide for a goal-kick. Australia’s first real chances came soon after. Striker Chris Ikonomidis headed just wide, before Aaron Nooy’s pass into Bayer Leverkusen’s Robbie Kruse saw the number ten’s low shot blocked well by Forster’s legs. Right-back Nathaniel Clyne and substitutes Milner and Ross Barkley all fired just wide for England, before the Socceroos halved the deficit. Another debutant, Miloš Degenek whipped in a mean ball from the left. Eric Dier, only on for a matter of minutes, nodded the ball between Forster’s legs with an attempted diving headed clearance. The Tottenham youngster looked unfazed by the own-goal, but England have hardly settled the nation’s worries with their defensive performances in the past two games. Burnley keeper Tom Heaton came on to gain international experience for his debut late on. No more clear-cut chances followed, and so it ended England 2-1 Australia.

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