Jamie Vardy’s late strike gave England victory over Turkey in their first warm-up match for Euro 2016, but Roy Hodgson’s side were fortunate to win a game in which they looked far from convincing at the back.
As dangerous as England were going forward they also struggled defensively, and it took a brilliant reaction save from Joe Hart to deny Olcay Sahan an equaliser in injury-time.
Most of the positives that Hodgson will take from this game will have come from watching his side attack, especially when he tweaked his formation to give Vardy a more central role in the final half hour.
And, after Harry Kane’s second-half penalty miss looked like it would be costly in Manchester, Vardy struck from close range with seven minutes left when Turkey failed to deal with Gary Cahill’s header.
Kane had actually given England the perfect start, linking up superbly with his Tottenham team-mate Dele Alli and finding a cool finish after four minutes, albeit from an offside position.
But England had already survived a couple of scares at the back when Volkan Sen got behind their defence and crossed for Hakan Calhanoglu to equalise soon after, and Turkey had further chances before England’s late show.
England’s defensive issues
With Chris Smalling unavailable after playing in Saturday’s FA Cup final, Gary Cahill was paired with John Stones in the centre of England’s defence, with Eric Dier in front of them.
While Dier did his best and was solid enough, given he was often isolated as the solitary dedicated holding midfielder, the centre-halves behind him were far less convincing, as was England’s general organisation in that department.
Turkey, three places below England at 13th in the world rankings and unbeaten in their last 13 matches, found plenty of space and asked frequent questions of the hosts’ uncertain back-line from set-pieces and in open play.
Hodgson has 19 days and two more warm-up matches left to try to put it right before England play Russia in their opening group game.
It was Hart who was partially to blame for Turkey’s goal, however.
He needlessly dashed out towards Sen when he got behind Danny Rose down England’s left, leaving Hakan Calhanoglu a simple finish from Sen’s cross.
4-3-3 suits Kane – but what about Vardy?
Hodgson used at least three different formations as he formulated his final plans for France.
His preferred shape for the first hour was 4-3-3, although in that formation only Kane looked likely to score.
Three of Hodgson’s five options up front – Wayne Rooney, Marcus Rashford and Daniel Sturridge – were unavailable for this game because they were recovering from playing in cup finals for their clubs.
That left Kane and Jamie Vardy, who have scored 49 Premier League goals between them this season.
The populist choice would have been to pair them up front together from the start, but instead Vardy and Raheem Sterling played either side of Kane in a 4-3-3 formation.
Vardy had few sights of goal and his crossing was not good enough to justify his selection as a winger but when Hodgson switched to 4-4-2 before the hour mark, he came alive.
The Leicester striker won England’s penalty in trademark style, dashing into the box and tangling with Mehmet Topal in a near-identical incident to the one that led to the forward’s dismissal against West Ham in April, but Kane’s usual coolness deserted him as he fired his spot-kick against the post.
Man of the Match – Harry Kane
The stats you need to know
- Jamie Vardy has now scored in three consecutive games for England.
- Harry Kane is the first England player to miss a penalty (excluding shootouts) since Frank Lampard missed against Japan in May 2010.
- England had scored the previous 11 penalties before Kane’s miss.
- Hakan Calhanoglu scored Turkey’s first ever goal against England at the country’s 11th attempt.
- England are now three games without a clean sheet for the first time since a run of four in August 2013.
- Roy Hodgson is the sixth England manager to reach 50 games (following Walter Winterbottom, Alf Ramsey, Ron Greenwood, Bobby Robson and Sven-Goran Eriksson).
England’s next friendly is against Australia at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light on 27 May. Hodgson must submit his final 23-man squad for the finals by 31 May, before their final warm-up game, against Portugal at Wembley on 2 June. The squad head for their base in Chantilly on 6 June and play their first group game, against Russia, on 11 June.