England 2-1 Nigeria
Brian Jeeves Reporting from Wembley Stadium
Football is nearly back upon us but in the meantime one more trip back in time. Just over two years ago, Yellow Sport oversaw England’s preparations ahead of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. The Three Lions faced a talented Nigerian side at Wembley Stadium, themselves keen to impress on the big stage…
SKIPPER, HARRY KANE, hit the decisive goal as England edged out Nigeria by the odd goal in three as the Three Lions FIFA World Cup preparations stepped up in what was an entertaining warm-up match at a sun-drenched Wembley Stadium.
This was England’s penultimate match before heading out to Russia for this summer’s tournament. Manager, Gareth Southgate, selected Tottenham Hotspur quartet, Kieran Trippier, Eric Dier, Dele Alli and Kane in his starting line-up, while Everton’s Jordan Pickford was preferred on this occasion in goal.
Southgate also handed a start to Manchester United frontman, Jesse Lingard, explaining: “All of our attacking players have different attributes or strength.
“Jesse is a fantastic player at recognising the space, working away from the ball – a great link between midfield and attack.”
Nevertheless, it was Spurs man, Trippier, who went close in the opening stages. His troublesome dead-ball effort turned away by Nigerian goalkeeper, Francis Uzoho. But from the resulting flag-kick from Trippier, Chelsea’s Gary Cahill rose unchallenged to head England into the lead.
The home side was clearly keen to put on a show for their fans. Raheem Sterling was a whisker away from adding a second – his effort drifting the wrong side of an upright after the pacy Manchester City man had been sent clear by Alli.
Uzoho denied Alli at his near post, while Leon Balogun’stimely interception from Lingard’s centre saved the day for the visitors as England continued to ask the sterner questions.
Odion Ighalo tested Pickford at his near post as Nigeria finally offered a threat of their own. However, they were almost immediately undone at the other end – Sterling firing over from twelve yards after finding some room amidst a beleaguered backline.
But a second goal always looked on the cards, and it proved to be a familiar source that provided it shortly before the break. Skipper Kane fired a low, right-footed drive beyond Uzoho, this after Sterling had fashioned the opening. It was no more than England deserved.
Nigeria made a clutch of changes at the break, which appeared to provide an instant tonic. Now looking altogether more fluent, Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi lashing home from close range within two minutes of the restart, this after Ighalo’s initial effort had cannoned back off the foot of a post.
Trippier wasn’t far away, heading Ashley Young’s corner narrowly wide as the hosts looked to restore their earlier two-goal advantage. But the balance of power had shifted, with Nigeria now looking the brighter side, much to the delight of their raucous support, largely congregated behind the goal.
Substitute, Oghenekaro Etebo, tested Pickford with a speculative strike from distance, while William Troost-Ekong timely tackle denied Danny Welbeck and Marcus Rashford drilled wide as the sides exchanged opportunities.
But England appeared to have weathered the Nigerian second-half storm. Rashford perhaps should have done better, nodding Fabian Delph’s pinpoint diagonal ball over from close range. This had proved to be a competitive workout for Southgate’s charges as they hope to offer fans a pragmatic outlook as they take to the biggest stage in world football.
England completes their preparations for the FIFA World Cup when they face Costa Rica at Leeds United’s Elland Road ground on Thursday, June 7 (8pm).
England: Jordan Pickford, Kieran Trippier, Ashley Young (Danny Rose 67’), Kyle Walker, John Stones, Gary Cahill, Jesse Lingard (Ruben Loftus-Cheek 67’), Eric Dier, Harry Kane (Capt) (Danny Welbeck 73’), Raheem Sterling (Marcus Rashford 73’), Dele Alli (Fabian Delph 81’)
Subs not used: Jack Butland (GK), Nick Pope (GK), Tom Heaton (GK), Harry Maguire, Jake Livermore, Adam Lallana, Jamie Vardy
Booked: Raheem Sterling (Diving)
Goals: Gary Cahill 7’, Harry Kane 39’
Nigeria: Francis Uzoho, Bryan Idowu, William Troost-Ekong, Leon Balogun (Kenneth Omeruo 46’), Odion Ighalo (Kelechi Iheanacho 77’), John Obi Mikel (Capt), Victor Moses (Ahmed Musa 63’), Shehu Abdullahi (Tyronne Ebuehi 46’), Joel Obi (John Ogu 46’), Ogenyi Onazi (Oghenekaro Etebo 46’), Alex Iwobi Subs not used: Ikechukwu Ezenwa (GK), Daniel Akpeeyi (GK), Elderson Echiejile, Wilfred Ndidi, Chidozie Awaziem, Simeon Nwankwo, Ola Aina, Mikel Agu
Booked: Ahmed Musa (foul)
Goals: Alex Iwobi 47
Referee: Marco Guida (Italy)
Assistants: Riccardo Di Fiore (Italy) and Alessandro Giallatini (Italy)
Fourth Official: Davide Massa (Italy)
VAR: Michael Fabbri (Italy)
Assistant VAR: Giulio Dobosa (Italy)
Reaction to follow…