LEICESTER, United Kingdom, Sep 11 – England bounced back from three consecutive defeats for the first time in 30 years as a much-changed side edged past Switzerland for a 1-0 friendly win in Leicester thanks to Marcus Rashford’s winner.
The Three Lions failed to hit the heights from their World Cup campaign in a laboured performance against an impressive young Swiss outfit.
However, Gareth Southgate did at least stave off an unwanted record of becoming the first England boss to oversee four straight defeats and further puncture the feel-good factor of a run to the World Cup semi-finals.
The two teams could have met in the quarter-finals in Russia had the Swiss not limped out of the competition with a whimper to Sweden in the last 16.
England proved far too strong for the Swedes before falling short against Croatia in the last four, but it is Switzerland who have so far bounced back from their World Cup disappointment the stronger.
Vladimir Petkovic’s side thrashed Iceland 6-0 to kickstart their Nations League campaign and were the better side for the first 45 minutes at the King Power.
Southgate insisted after being outplayed for the majority of a 2-1 defeat by Spain in his side’s inaugural Nations League encounter on Saturday that England must persist with his intention to improve on playing out from the back under pressure.
However, it nearly cost the hosts the opening goal twice in a matter of seconds inside the first 10 minutes.
Jack Butland misplaced a pass which rolled dangerously close to his own goal, and when the goalkeeper’s next clearance to James Tarkowski was cut out by the Swiss high press, Xherdan Shaqiri should have scored rather than striking the post on his weaker right foot.
England’s best efforts early on were restricted to set-pieces as Eric Dier headed just wide from Trent Alexander-Arnold’s free-kick before the Liverpool full-back fired another effort too close to Yann Sommer.
Southgate has lamented England’s failure to produce midfielders of the calibre that Croatia and Spain possess.
But his side, containing nine changes from the weekend, was struggling even to cope with the Swiss’ passing and movement as the visitors enjoyed nearly 65 percent possession before the break.
Butland redeemed himself for his earlier errors with smart saves low to his right to deny Mario Gavranovic and Ricardo Rodriguez.
A more positive start to the second period for the hosts was rewarded with the only goal on 54 minutes when Kyle Walker’s hanging cross to the back post was swept home by Rashford for his fifth international goal.
The importance of holding on for a morale-boosting win for Southgate was shown as he introduced a host of regular starters, including captain Harry Kane off the bench for the final quarter.
Shaqiri came closest to an equaliser, but saw his fierce strike bravely blocked by John Stones as England held out for victory.