In a match that promised to be an exciting one, the only highlight of the game was a 35th minute red card for Portuguese defender Bruno Alves after he rose high to challenge for the ball but instead almost decapitated England’s Harry Kane with what seemed like a maneuver out of a martial arts movie.
The 10-man Portugal side managed to keep Roy Hodgson’s men at bay till the 86th minute wherein Chris Smalling headed in a Sterling cross to find the winner. Tottenham’s Kyle Walker impressed as he coupled some fine crosses with an explosive shot just wide of the mark. The rest of the England team failed to break down an uninspired Portugal although they played the better part of the match with a man short.
Dele Alli, who has been a vital figure for his club and exceptional in the 3-2 victory against Germany was restricted to playing on the left side as opposed to the central role he has enjoyed coming out of. Wayne Rooney’s performance down the center was well short of the mark and specially when juxtaposed with the likes of Alli who has been in inspired form.
Kane and Vardy failed to damage the scoreline and were pushed so far apart by a resilient Portugal defense that the duo could not link up and deliver on expectations. Expectations that were high considering they have scored 49 goals between the two of them in England this season.
Smalling had a quiet night as the men in red barely threatened to bother Joe Hart but his late winner made all the difference. A late cameo by substitute Sterling was a glimpse of his in-form self at Liverpool and hopefully he can capitalise on the confidence going in to the Euros for the Three Lions.
Roy Hodgson spoke to BBC Sport after the game and said, “It is often a struggle when you play against 10 men. We would have preferred 11 v 11, to flow more in attack and in defense.
“We were on the ball and trying to find the way through a packed and well-organised Portugal defense.
“I don’t intend to tell you what I think of what worked and what didn’t.
“The players worked hard to keep their shape and build attacks. It is our third win and one against a Portugal team ranked higher than us in the FIFA rankings, so no reason to be dissatisfied.”