England 2-1 Nigeria: Entertaining test for Southgate's Three Lions

England 2-1 Nigeria: Entertaining test for Southgate's Three Lions

Gareth Southgate's side were fluent and entertaining in the first-half. Nigeria matched their formation in the second period and proved a threat. The England manager will have been pleased with the pre-World Cup test.

harry-robinson
Harry Robinson
EnglandPickford; Trippier, Waker, Cahill, Stones, Young (Rose 68'); Lingard (Loftus-Cheek 68'), Dier; Sterling (Rashford 74'), Kane (Welbeck 74'), Alli (Delph 81').
NigeriaUzoho, Idowu, Troost-Ekong, Balogun (Omeruo 45'), Onazi (Etebo 45'), Mikel, Obi (Ogu 45'), Abdullahi (Ebuehi 45'), Ighalo (Iheanacho 77'), Moses (Musa 63'), Iwobi.
SCORE1-0, Cahill 7'. 2-0, Kane 39'. 2-1, Iwobi, 47'.

England showed both their strengths and their weaknesses ahead of a World Cup with mixed expectations, beating Nigeria 2-1 in a friendly at Wembley.

For the first half, Gareth Southgate 's side were impressively fluid and dominant. Their attacking play was rhythmic, exciting and pleasing on the eye. It's not something seen too frequently by England sides in friendlies.

Three Lions confident and fluent

A team devoid of true stars, apart from perhaps captain Harry Kane, Southgate's Three Lions looked like a team who have been prepared thoroughly at St. George's Park, a team who understand their roles perfectly.

Southgate started an experimental midfield of Jesse Lingard and Eric Dier, with Dele AlliRaheem Sterling and Kane sitting in front. Sitting, though, would be the incorrect word. With Dier the anchorman in midfield, the rest of the frontline was fluent and the link-up play between them was never forced.

Rather, Kane recognised when to drop deep. The others swapped with great regularity, and to great effect. Nigeria's defence looked stretched and vulnerable.

Cahill thumps home early header

But it was a set-piece goal, further evidence of good preparation at St. George's Park, that put England in front after just seven minutes. Kieran Trippier has a good free-kick effort parried wide by Uzoho and delivered a fantastic cross from the subsequent corner. Gary Cahill met it with a good jump on the penalty spot and powered it fantastically into the top right corner, above the Nigerian defender placed there to stop exactly such an occurence, such was the quality.

England's dominance continued up to the break. Though Kane had seemed quiet, his positional discipline was notable. While his attacking teammates linked up with each other, Kane never looked in the way because his movement was equally good.

Embed from Getty Images

Kane nets after quiet start

As with the Spurs striker, one chance was converted into one goal. He combined with Sterling and the Manchester City man teed him up for a powerful shot into the middle of the goal. Uzoho mistimed the pace of the ball, which was significant, and it bounced off him and into the goal. The speed with which Kane struck the ball, both in terms of his reactions and the power on it, contributed to Uzoho's mistake.

That, then, was England's strengths shown. But the second half was a different story as Nigeria matched their back three. A huddle before the restart, they were motivated to entertain the 10,000 Nigerians at one end of Wembley. They did so immediately.

Iwobi scores early in second half

Arsenal's Alex Iwobi netted from a rebound of an Odion Ighalo shot having played a role in the build-up too. Nigeria continued to threaten, too. Their pace on the counter-attack against a weak England midfield was threatening.

That showed the potential vulnerability of an England XI such as this. But Southgate's team did manage the situation, despite a few scares. The domination was lost, as was the rhythm and the fluency of the first half, but the points, if there were any as there will be in Moscow in a fortnight, were England's.

Southgate will have pleased that England had the opportunity to show their ability, but also that they were tested by Nigeria in the second half. He'll now prepare to face Costa Rica, a different kind of challenge. 

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