England kept their unbeaten record against Nigeria intact after they edged the three-time African champions 2-1 in a 2018 World Cup warm-up friendly at Wembley on Saturday.
Gary Cahill, who was named Man-of-the-Match, grabbed the Three Lions opener when he nodded in Kieran Trippier’s corner in the seventh minute, before captain Harry Kane’s grounder beat Francis Uzoho, in goal for the Super Eagles, to make it 2-0 for the hosts.
But Arsenal forward Alex Iwobi reduced the deficit with a clinical finish just two minutes after the break as the Nigerians came back stronger in the second period of the game. The Eagles were awful during the opening 45 minutes with the hosts dominating possession and coming close severally but for some couple of saves by the 19-year-old Uzoho, who was earning his fifth cap.
The Deportivo La Coruna keeper did well to parry Trippier’s free kick after Ogenyi Onazi had fouled Dele Alli, but he was helpless as Cahill beat captain Mikel Obi, his former Chelsea teammate, with a header from the resultant corner for England’s opener.
England were in total control of the opening half and added a second after another Onazi defensive blunder allowed Kane to slot in from the edge of the box.
Coach Gernot Rohr brought on John Ogu, Oghenekaro Etebo, Kenneth Omeruo and Tyronne Ebuehi, with Onazi, Shehu Abdullahi, Joel Obi and Leon Balogun making way.
The changes worked as the visitors came back strongly in the second half, showing more of the verve that took them past Cameroon in the qualifiers and against Argentina in a friendly late last year.
Iwobi wriggled his way through the English defence before stylishly setting up Odion Ighalo, but the China-based striker saw his effort hit the far post with Keeper Jordan Pickford well beaten. But the lurking Iwobi blasted home the rebound as Wembley came alive with celebrations by the Nigerian supporters.
However, it was too little too late, as the hosts recorded their second win in three outings against their opponents. The other encounter ended 0-0 at the 2002 World Cup. Indeed, it was England’s 18th meeting with an African side, with the Three Lions winning 12 with six ending in stalemate.
Worthy of note was Uzoho’s performances, amongst which was a fine save from Ashley Young’s close range effort in the 12th minute, before powerfully punching away a Raheem Sterling attempt 11 minutes later. The Eagles, who were held 1-1 by DR Congo in another pre-World Cup friendly in Port Harcourt on Monday, flew to London on Wednesday after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari.
From London, the delegation travels to Bad Tatzmannsdorf, a city in Austria, where they will spend eight days at the Avita Resort, before flying to Russia. In-between the final camping in Austria, the team will play a final pre-World Cup friendly against the Czech Republic at the Rudolf Tonn Stadium (just outside Vienna) on Wednesday.
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