Marcus Rashford continued his incredible story in 2016 with a goal on his England debut in Friday’s 2-1 friendly win over Australia at the Stadium of Light.
The 18-year-old, a surprise inclusion in Roy Hodgson’s provisional squad for Euro 2016, marked his first senior appearance with a goal after just 135 seconds and gave his chances of heading to the finals in France a real boost.
Rashford, who scored twice on his Manchester United bow in the Europa League in February and again in his maiden Premier League appearance against Arsenal, was the major talking point in a match in which England too often looked disjointed, just as they did in the win over Turkey last week.
Captain Wayne Rooney, who missed that game due to the FA Cup final, scored a superb second 10 minutes after the break to put England in control, but Eric Dier’s own goal gave a spirited Australia a lifeline in the closing stages.
The hosts withstood some late pressure to see out a second Euros warm-up victory, though questions will remain for Hodgson as he prepares to trim his squad down to 23 by May 31.
Rashford needed 63 minutes to score on his United debut in February, but it took him an hour less to open his international account. After releasing Raheem Sterling down the left, Rashford continued his run into the area and, as a deflected cross dropped kindly to him in space, he drilled a volley beneath Mat Ryan at the near post.
Rashford had a chance for a second 10 minutes later as Danny Drinkwater – starting at the base of midfield – and Sterling combined on the break to send the United man through, but a poor first touch allowed Mark Milligan to recover.
Australia enjoyed a decent spell of possession, but England began to threaten again towards the end of the half and Jordan Henderson came close with a dipping effort from 18 yards that forced Ryan to tip the ball over the crossbar.
Hodgson introduced Rooney at half-time and it did not take England’s record goalscorer long to make an impact. Sterling raced down the left on the break and squared the ball to Rooney, who steadied himself before blasting high past Ryan from the edge of the area.
Australia had impressed on the ball but offered little threat to Fraser Forster’s goal until the 71st minute, when the Southampton goalkeeper reacted well to keep Robbie Kruse’s low effort from close range out of the bottom corner.
James Milner fizzed an effort narrowly wide for England, but Australia were gifted a way back into the match shortly afterwards. Dier, barely two minutes after replacing Chris Smalling at the heart of the defence, steered a diving header beneath his own goalkeeper from close range despite no real pressure being applied to the ball.
Tom Heaton was given his England debut in goal for the final few minutes as England eased to a win, but the headlines will belong firmly to Rashford once more.
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