England began their World Cup preparations with a 2-1 comeback victory over Switzerland at Wembley Stadium which extended their unbeaten run to a record 21 games.
Harry Kane’s clinical penalty (78) and Luke Shaw’s fierce drive (45+1) saw England emphatically recover from an underwhelming first-half display in which Breel Embolo headed the visitors in front (22) and Switzerland struck the woodwork on two occasions.
The England victory extended their unbeaten run to a record-breaking 21 matches – the longest unbeaten run in the national team’s history – laying the ideal foundations as Gareth Southgate’s side bid to go one step further in a major tournament at this year’s World Cup in Qatar.
Record-breaking England on the road to Qatar
Fears that John Stones’ injury in the warm-up and late withdrawal would unsettle England came to fruition as Southgate’s inexperienced team, which featured debutants Marc Guehi and Kyle Walker-Peters, creaked against a Switzerland side who sensed a first-ever victory at Wembley could be on the cards.
The lively Conor Gallagher saw a curled effort headed clear quarter of an hour in, but it was Swiss domination from there on, with Embolo glancing home Xherdan Shaqiri’s inch-perfect cross and receiving a questionable VAR reprieve for offside to give the visitors the lead.
England were indebted to Jordan Pickford not to go two goals down when he brilliantly tipped Fabian Frei’s thunderous effort onto the bar, before Walker-Peters’s blushes were spared by the offside flag when he cannoned a shot off the post when a debut goal was laid on a plate in front of the gaping Switzerland goal.
Having already hit the bar, the woodwork denied Switzerland for a second time when Shaqiri’s direct corner struck the base of the England post, and Pickford soon atoned for his momentary lapse with a fine save to deny Ricardo Rodriguez’s follow-up effort.
Switzerland will have been scratching their heads as to how they were not in a more commanding position at the break, let alone on level terms, as Shaw’s thumping left-footed drive papered over an underwhelming and disjointed first-half performance.
There was much-needed zip, precision and intensity to England’s play after the interval, which the impressive Gallagher’s looping pass releasing Kane through on goal where only a smothering save from Jonas Omlin preventing the England skipper from giving his side the lead.
Southgate introduced Jack Grealish, Declan Rice, Raheem Sterling and debutant Tyrick Mitchell on the hour. England continued to threaten the Swiss goal, with Kane heading into the gloves of Omlin and Ben White whistling a shot over, before Steven Zuber was penalised for handball after a VAR review and Kane was handed the chance to seal the victory from the penalty spot.
England host Ivory Coast in an international friendly on Tuesday at 7.45pm.