Gareth Southgate’s men capped a promising display with a deserved victory as an experimental England side beat Holland 1-0 thanks to Jesse Lingard’s first international goal.
Time is running out for players to prove their worth with the World Cup just three months away, while the Three Lions boss does not have many more opportunities to tweak with things ahead of the opener against Tunisia.
With that in mind Southgate raised eyebrows with some selections for the final game on foreign soil before heading to Russia, but England looked confident against one of the most notable World Cup absentees as Lingard’s maiden goal secured a 1-0 win against Holland.
The Three Lions manager will be first to admit that there is still much work to do, but his side looked in control for the most part at the sold-out Amsterdam ArenA as Ronald Koeman’s first match in charge of the underwhelming Oranje ended in defeat.
What looked to be a gamble in selecting Kyle Walker in a three-man defence worked well and Joe Gomez’s early injury did not throw the England backline off kilter against Holland, with players remaining patient in attack despite a lack of cutting edge threatening to be problematic again.
Marcus Rashford, spearheading the attack, was angered not to win a penalty shortly after half-time, but Manchester United team-mate Lingard soon struck his first international goal to put England on course for a deserved victory.
Southgate’s first win in a glamour friendly came at the sixth time of asking and the Three Lions boss will want to see more from his side against Italy at Wembley on Tuesday – the final match before he selects his World Cup squad.
Concerns over this summer’s finals had dominated the build-up and the England manager will no doubt be asked about off-field issues again as his pre-match plea for fans to behave fell on deaf ears a year on from some despicable behaviour in Dortmund.
News of 90 arrests in Amsterdam city centre filtered through during a game that started with the boorish element of the 5,253 travelling fans booing the Dutch national anthem.
Things did not get much better when play got under way as Gomez’s second appearance came to an untimely end as Harry Maguire came on for the injured defender inside 10 minutes.
The early modification to an already much-changed side unsurprisingly meant England struggled to put their game plan into action in the early stages, but they looked comfortable on the ball but without creating a real threat.
Jordan Pickford, auditioning for the No.1 job, comfortably dealt with a long-range Matthijs de Ligt strike at the other end before smartly coming off his line to thwart Quincy Promes, but there was not a whole lot for the Everton goalkeeper to do.
England were the brighter side in the first half and skipper Jordan Henderson flicked a header wide, with Sterling prevented from being put through by Lingard’s smart ball by charging Holland goalkeeper Jeroen Zoet.
Southgate’s men were playing with freedom and his forward-thinking defence began to spread their wings, with his side looking confident on the ball without the required end product.
England picked up where they left off after the break and Rashford was furious not to be awarded a penalty soon after play resumed after going down in the box under pressure from De Ligt and Zoet.
The Manchester United forward had the bit between his teeth, but it was his close friend that would break the deadlock in the 59th minute.
Rose was not having the best of evenings, but his left-wing cross ended up taking deflection and Lingard met the loose ball with a smart first-time finish.
Holland looked to respond as Bas Dost and De Ligt had attempts, although the sheer numbers of changes from both sides took the sting out of proceedings.
Memphis Depay saw a free-kick saved but Holland looked like a side struggling for an identity, with Kieran Trippier stinging the palms as England looked to add gloss to the scoreline.
It was a low-key game but surely a helpful evening for Southgate and his troops.