ENGLAND warmed up for the World Cup with an entertaining win over Nigeria at Wembley.
The Three Lions dominated the first half and should have led by more than the two goals scored by Gary Cahill and Harry Kane.
But the Super Eagles were a different prospect after the break and they gave Gareth Southgate’s side a scare when halving the deficit immediately after the restart through Alex Iwobi.
Despite a few nervous moments England held on to claim victory.
There was no debut for Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope though, who will hope his chance comes against Costa Rica at Elland Road on Thursday.
Pope was on the bench alongside club captain Tom Heaton, who is on standby for Russia, but while there might have been two current Clarets among the substitutes there were two former Burnley men involved in England’s opener inside seven minutes.
Former Turf Moor favourite Kieran Trippier won a corner when his 25-yard free-kick was turned behind by visiting goalkeeper Francis Uzoho. From the resulting set-piece Trippier’s delivery was headed in off the underside of the bar by former Burnley loanee Gary Cahill.
It was all England in the early stages and Raheem Sterling was putting a difficult week behind him, jinking into space in the area and seeing a shot deflected behind, before he latched on to a Dele Alli through ball and dinked his effort over Uzoho but it drifted wide of the far post.
The Three Lions were a threat from set-pieces and Uzoho sprawled to his right to push away John Stones’ header from Ashley Young’s left-sided delivery.
Sterling and Young were involved again after 18 minutes, exchanging passes in the area before the Manchester United man saw his close-range shot blocked by Bryan Idowu.
Jesse Lingard was next to test Uzoho just before the half hour, with England stringing a fine passing move together that began with Jordan Pickford and ended with Trippier’s low cross being turned goalwards by Lingard, only for the overworked Uzoho to smother it.
Nigeria’s defence was proving an easy lock to pick and Eric Dier’s sweeping pass straight down the middle sent Alli away, but he first touch stalled momentum. Instead he played in Sterling, who checked back on to his left foot but lashed his shot over.
It was a temporary reprieve for Nigeria. Dier won possession high up the pitch, allowing England to counter, and when Sterling found Harry Kane on the edge of the box the skipper fired in a low shot which befuddled Uzoho, who could only parry it into the net.
Pickford had been a spectator in the first half but he was forced into a routine save on the stroke of the break, fielding Victor Moses’ low shot.
That proved to be the prelude to Nigeria’s improvement. They made four half-time changes, matched the hosts with three at the back and had a goal back within two minutes of the restart. Alex Iwobi’s pass found Odion Ighalo and although his shot hit the post Iwobi had continued his forward run and reacted quickest to turn the rebound home from just inside the area.
The Super Eagles were reinvigorated now and they were suddenly a different proposition for a ragged England, who were conducting debriefs on the pitch to try and stem the tide.
It was a test of England’s mettle, particularly with Nigeria roared on by thousands of fans clad in green behind the goal they were now attacking.
The home side’s fluency which had been on show in the first half had been halted and they had nobody in midfield capable of slowing the game as it become increasingly stretched.
There were a couple of nervous moments as Nigeria flashed crosses across goal, while Pickford made a routine save from John Obi Mikel’s low shot midway through the half.
England were ringing the changes as the half wore on and one of the replacements, Marcus Rashford, sent a shot from distance fizzing into the side netting.
Those substitutions helped to draw the sting from the Nigerian revival and a low-key final quarter saw England through to a winning Wembley send-off before the World Cup.
Source : LancashireTelegraph