England V Nigeria - Wembley Stadium. Photo by Paul Lagan
Chelsea’s skipper Gary Cahill scored his fifth goal for England - a bullet header as the Three Lions ended their Wembley season with a narrow 2-1 win over Nigeria as both sides’ World Cup preparations enter their final phase.
Cahill was back to his best, and he was awarded the man of the match to go with his thumping goal on eight minutes. That alone should have secured him a starting place when England face Tunisia on June 18 in their opening group match in Russia.
On Tuesday, England face Costa Rica at Elland Road.
Dele Alli roundly booed as soon as he touched the ball from the Nigeria fans.
His father is Nigerian and Alli chose to play for the country he grew up in.
Five minutes in and the trainers were on to treat Joel Obi and Leon Balogun who clashed heads forcefully in their own penalty area.
A Kieran Trippier free kick was expertly parried away by Francis Uzoho three minute later. From the resultant corner by Tripper, Chelsea’s skipper Gary Cahill rose above the rest and powerfully headed the ball past Uzoho to give the Three Lions the lead on eight minutes.
Jesse Lingard did well on a quick counter-attack by England on 29 minutes. But his angled bar post shot was blocked by Uzoho for a corner.
Raheem Sterling should have score number two on 38 minutes. A Harry Kane pass to Alli, saw Sterling pick the ball up, turn and shoot inches over the Nigeria crossbar.
But the second goal was coming and while Kane scored it, from a low drive from the edge of the penalty area, Uzoho will take the blame by failing to grasp the daisy-cutter and letting it bounce off his midriff and flash into the back of the net.
Nigeria’s best effort fell to Chelsea’s Victor Moses, who went on a mazy run and left fly with a low left-footer. Jordan Pickford easily sniffled the shot.
Straight from the whistle for the second half, the visitors went into attack mode and they were rewarded with a wonderful left-footed strike by Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi, who followed up the rebound off the post from Odion Ighalo fierce strike.
This was quickly followed by Kane hacking the ball off his line as the Super Eagles continued to press for an equaliser.
Under fire from some of the press in recent days, Sterling did not do his cause any good by getting a yellow card from Italian referee Riccardo Di Fiore for diving at the feet of Uzoho, trying to grasp a penalty.
Gareth Southgate replaced ineffectual Lingard for Chelsea’s Ruben Loftus Cheek and Young for Spurs’s Danny Rose.
Ex-Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel tried a speculative 25 yarder on 70 minutes. Pickford wasn’t troubled and grasped the low drive easily.
Marcus Rashford was next up for Sterling and danny Welbeck for Harry Kane.
Alli exited the field to boos from the visiting fans as Fabian Delph entered the fray with eight minutes left.
Neither side looked remotely likely to score again and both side should be happy with their World Cup preparations.
Teams: Pickford, Trippier, Young, Walker, Stones, Cahill, Lingard, Dier, Kane, Sterling, Alli
Subs: Butland, Pope, Heaton, Rose, Maguire, Delph, Livermore, Loftus-Cheek, Lallana, Vardy, Rashford, Welbeck
Nigeria: Uzoho, Idowu, Troost-Ekong, Balogun, Ogholo, Mikel, Moses, Abdullahi, Obi, Iwobi
Subs: Ezenwa, Akpeyi, Echiejile, Omeruo, Musa, Etebo, Ndidi, Iheanacho, Ogu, Awaziem, Ebuehi, Nwankwo, Aina, Agu
Referee: Riccardo Di Fiore (Italy)