England’s World Cup preparations continued in encouraging fashion despite the frustration of a video assistant referee ruling allowing Italy to snatch a 1-1 draw.
Four days after securing a deserved win in Holland, tentative optimism continued as the Three Lions produced a promising display against another big-name absentee from this summer’s finals.
Italy are not the force they once were but this was another assured display from England, even though a familiar lack of cutting edge meant Gareth Southgate’s side failed to build on Jamie Vardy’s first-half goal.
Lorenzo Insigne grabbed an 88th-minute penalty leveller after a video assistant referee review.
Referee Deniz Aytekin pointed to the spot after looking at footage of debutant James Tarkowski making contact with Italy substitute Federico Chiesa, but it did not take too much gloss off another solid display in England’s last match before Southgate names his squad for Russia.
The friendly was the England players’ last chance to press home their case for a place on the plane, with the provisional 35-man squad due in with FIFA on May 14 and the final 23-group required to be finalised by June 4.
Southgate will have been largely impressed by his side’s performance, although the three-man defence was guilty of the odd hairy moment and Jack Butland did not look as assured in possession as Jordan Pickford did on his audition for the No.1 jersey.
At the other end patient play was complemented by intelligent attacking transitions, with sparkling Raheem Sterling’s directness causing problems - and leading to the free-kick that Jesse Lingard’s played quickly though for Vardy to fire home.
England should have had more but the lack of cutting edge that has been stark in Harry Kane’s absence continued, allowing Insigne to level after the penalty given away by Tarkowski.
Boss Southgate said: “I’m glad it’s not the World Cup just yet.
“I think the ruling is ‘clear and obvious’ and it’s not. It’s one you can debate all day.
“An obvious handball and stuff like that then maybe but we have to get on with it.”
Southgate, though, was pleased with England’s performance on the night.
He added: “In the first five minutes we were very sloppy and gave the ball away in our penalty area but then we settled down and created more chances.
“Raheem Sterling, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jesse Lingard did well running from midfield and Jamie Vardy scored a really good goal.”