England Under-21s continued their record-breaking winning streak tonight, but overcoming nine-man Austria was hardly the test Stuart Pearce will have hoped for in the last scheduled match ahead of this summer’s European Championships.
The Young Lions’ ninth consecutive victory without conceding was an easy one in the end and will put them in confident mood for the trip to Israel in June.
However, it was hardly the competitive fare Pearce will have craved as he looks to whittle down his options to a 23-man squad for the tournament.
Austria impressed in the first half and had threatened to breach the England backline for the first time in 16 months on more than once.
However, the red cards handed out to Richard Strebinger and Patrick Farkas either side of half-time killed the game as a contest, with Jonjo Shelvey and substitute Josh McEachran netting from the resulting set-pieces.
Fellow substitute Marvin Sordell and man of the match Connor Wickham also got in on the act as England ran riot although how much Pearce will take from the result is questionable.
Much like Thursday’s 3-0 defeat of Romania in Wycombe, the hosts looked nervous in a slow start.
It took a moment of individual brilliance from Raheem Sterling to create the evening’s first chance, with the Liverpool winger jinking past several defenders before sending a cross-shot just wide. England were impressing going forwards but looking unusually susceptible at the back, epitomised by the play that allowed Robert Zulj to shoot inches wide.
Former Sheffield Wednesday loanee Wickham had a big part in England’s third goal, a fine cut-back from the Sunderland striker being converted by substitute Sordell.
Wickham came close to volleying home another and soon got the goal he craved, rounding the goalkeeper to slot home England’s fourth.