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England outclass stylish Nigeria

Pin Nigeria fought back in the second half but couldn't find the leveller. AFP
Nigeria fought back in the second half but couldn't find the leveller. AFP

England outclass stylish Nigeria

In another World Cup dress rehearsal, England welcomed Nigeria to Wembley where an electric first half was enough to continue the Three Lions’ unbeaten streak.

Gareth Southgate, yet to taste defeat as England boss, named a Tottenham-heavy starting XI before the whistle and gave a hint at who’s likely to guard the upright in Russia as he entrusted Jordan Pickford with the goalkeeping duties.

- England dominate -

Just seven minutes into the tie, pigs were flying over Wembley as England managed to score from a set-piece. Rising high and flexing his neck muscles, Gary Cahill met a corner with a thumping header to give England the lead. 1-0 and Southgate’s men were off to a dream start.

Raheem Sterling then had the chance to extend his country’s lead moments later when he was slipped through on goal by Dele Alli. Opting to dink the ball over Francis Uzoho, the Manchester City’s effort lacked accuracy and trickled wide.

Working attack after attack, England showed the incisive football fans are hoping to see at Russia’s showpiece later this month. Amidst the controversy of his gun tattoo, Sterling rifled a shot over the crossbar before Harry Kane showed him how it’s done.  

The skipper took matters into his own hands and doubled England’s advantage before the break. Teed up by Sterling on the edge of the box, Kane lashed a wicked strike at Francis Uzoho who hopelessly pounced on the ball. With that goal, the Spurs striker brought his tally up to an astonishing 46 goals for club and country this season. 2-0.

Nigeria’s first half display failed to live up to the hype of their jazzy new jerseys as they trudged down the tunnel having given their fans very little to cheer about.

- Nigeria bite back -

England failed to switch back on after the break and were punished by the Super Eagles. Odion Ighalo wriggled free in the box and cannoned his effort of the post. Fortunately for him, team-mate Alex Iwobi, bursting onto the scene, met the follow-up with a first-time strike and coolly guided the ball beyond Jordan Pickford, slicing England’s lead in half. 2-1.

A rather uninspiring second half saw Nigeria keep England at bay, though Southgate’s men seemed more than content to grind out the win. The Super Eagles’ official Twitter page perfectly summed up their game with a mix of brutal honesty and self-flattery: “Sloppy first half performance but a remarkable improvement in the second.”

The Three Lions’ roar was ultimately fierce enough to stop the Super Eagles from soaring. Unbeaten since their crushing defeat to Iceland at Euro 2016, England will take on Costa Rica on Thursday brimming with confidence.

Thomas Davidson

Thomas Davidson

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