England completed preparations for the European Championships with a drab performance in victory over 10-man Portugal at Wembley to leave manager Roy Hodgson with more questions than answers ahead of the opening group match against Russia on 11 June. Bruno Alves' sending off was the only notable incident of the first half, before Chris Smalling flicked home a Raheem Sterling cross on 86 minutes to illuminate a dreary international friendly which saw the home side fail to impress with a variety of players used in multiple systems.
While a clean sheet will cement the defensive line-up in Hodgson's mind, there remain concerns over who will operate in the attacking third after Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy and captain Wayne Rooney failed to gel - despite the late winner. Furthermore, Dele Alli was ineffectual in a wide-left position and not until Sterling and Adam Lallana came on did England look even remotely threatening.
Portugal will complete their build-up to Euro 2016 by taking on Estonia on 8 June when captain Cristiano Ronaldo and defender Pepe are expected to return after being rested following Real Madrid's victory in the Champions League final. But for England, though they have won all three of their pre-tournament warm-up games they have run out of opportunities to identify the right formula in time for the game against Russia and it leaves Hodgson with several concerns ahead of the game in Marseille.
The time for debate and conjecture was seemingly almost over for Hodgson as England faced their final tune-up match prior to the big kick-off in France, yet the game represented another opportunity to experiment despite being just eight days away from taking their tournament bow.
Kane, Vardy and Rooney started in attack for the first time in an international, while Kyle Walker and Danny Rose were selected ahead of Nathaniel Clyne and the injured Ryan Bertrand - as Hodgson dropped the biggest hint yet over his team for the start of the Euros. Despite the potential of the front three, it was nevertheless unsatisfactory for the trio's maiden start together to come days before the squad travel to France.
Opponents Portugal had been identified due to the role of their their central pillar - Ronaldo - being likened to that of Wales' Gareth Bale, however Hodgson's plans were hijacked by the Real forward being rested after the Champions League triumph in Milan. Manager Fernando Santos named an otherwise experienced team, including four players with over 80 caps for their country.
Hodgson's attempts to discover the right balance in his attack-minded team started with a diamond in midfield, with Kane and Vardy in attack ahead of skipper Rooney. But the early stages were littered with misplaced passes and a lack of fluidity as England's frontmen were pushed into unnatural wide positions as Portugal kept the hosts at arms length.
The dogmatic Alli, himself in a wide-role on the left of the midfield, was providing the only bright spark of an otherwise underwhelming display with the balance of the England team non-existent and Hodgson's attempts to accommodate Kane, Vardy and Rooney in the same team backfiring. Portugal were content with retaining possession inside their own and they came closest to taking the lead in the first half as Ricardo Carvalho headed over from Joao Moutinho's free-kick.
Rui Patricio had earlier saved Rooney's cushioned header but England came closer to breaking the deadlock from their most complete attack as Walker lashed wide after Rooney's attempted chipped pass was blocked. The game was badly in need of a flashpoint, and it came after 35 minutes when Alves inexplicably launched himself at Kane's head and was immediately dismissed by referee Marco Guida.
The numerical advantage immediately allowed England space to exploit and their attacking trio combined to almost give them the lead but Patricio made a low save from Kane, who was unable to add to his five international goals. But the episode was rare incident of note during an anaemic first 45 minutes.
The game failed to improve after the restart and it wasn't long before the Wembley crowd began a customary Mexican wave - such was tedious nature of a friendly which was becoming increasingly inconsequential and worthless to Hodgson. Jack Wilshere and Raheem Sterling were introduced to inject some impetus into a performance which was in desperate need of a moment of quality.
The changes, plus the introduction of Lallana, did enrich the England display and after substitute Ricardo Quaresma curled wide of Joe Hart's goal, they went ahead with four minutes remaining. Sterling was allowed time to cross and find Smalling who flicked nonchalantly into the corner for his first international goal - but the winner does little to clarify England's strategy heading in the finals.