England strolled to a 3-0 victory against Ivory Coast at Wembley on Tuesday evening thanks to goals from Ollie Watkins, Raheem Sterling and Tyrone Mings – as well as a red card
The Three Lions were hoping to be challenged by their guests ahead of the World Cup – just as they were in their 2-1 victory against Switzerland on Saturday – but the game was a breeze after Serge Aurier was dismissed in the 40th minute.
England would’ve probably preferred the former Tottenham man to stay on, yet they didn’t waste the opportunity for a home win. Goals from Ollie Watkins, Raheem Sterling and Tyrone Mings secured a second consecutive win. Here are five talking points from Wembley.
Sterling was handed the armband by Southgate on Tuesday and it proved to be a wise decision. After suffering an injury scare early on, the Manchester City ace produced an inspiring display in attack while the likes of Harry Kane watch on from the bench.
Sterling was a handful for Watkins’ opener, winning the ball back and producing an irresistible low cross into the middle for the Aston Villa striker to tap home.
That goal would’ve calmed Southgate’s nerves after the England boss handed starts to the likes of Watkins, Tyrick Mitchell, Nick Pope and Mings. Rotating is always a risk, yet it was one that paid off. The Three Lions are certainly blessed with depth.
Sterling continued to entertain after Aurier’s dismissal, scoring a nice goal. His initial shot was saved by goalkeeper Badra Sangare but the loose ball fell to Jack Grealish, who fired it across the middle for his City colleague to hammer home.
After that, there was little to play for. Ivory Coast defended well – considering the circumstances – before Mings scored a late header for the hosts.
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Jeers to cheers for Maguire
Harry Maguire made his first start for England at Wembley since scoring against Albania last November, famously cupping his hands to his ears. At the time, he wasn’t playing well for Manchester United but still received a good reception from England fans.
The centre-back’s form hasn’t improved during the last four months and the Wembley supporters have noticed, booing him at the start of the game. It was hard to fathom, considering he’s always delivered for his country – most notably at last summer’s Euros.
Maguire didn’t appear unsettled by the jeers, however, making a solid start to the game and even getting a round of applause mid-way through the first half. He didn’t need to do much after that due to the red card, yet the clean sheet still helped his cause.
Watkins takes chance
England have a lot of centre-forwards to choose from and, unless something happens to Kane, a prolific star is going to miss out on a place in Qatar. Southgate has Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Danny Ings, Tammy Abraham, Ivan Toney and others to choose from.
Watkins was not initially selected for this month’s friendlies after scoring just seven Premier League goals this season but was handed a spot when Abraham and others withdrew. And he certainly took his chance at Wembley by scoring the opener.
The Villa man remained a threat until he was brought off in the 62nd minute, along with Sterling, Mitchell and Grealish.
Jude is the future
Southgate deployed an impressive midfield on Tuesday. James Ward-Prowse has been scoring free-kicks for fun in the Premier League this season, while Declan Rice is supposedly worth £150million. Yet Jude Bellingham overshadowed both of them.
The Borussia Dortmund star produced a dominant display at Wembley, torturing the opposition defence after Aurier’s dismissal with his long legs and mesmerising feet. To think he’s just 18 is frightening. He could – and should – be given a starting role in Qatar.
Zaha misses out on history
National teams rarely come up against their ex-players, yet that was set to happen when Wilfried Zaha was included in Ivory Coast’s squad for the friendly. Zaha picked up two senior caps for England before switching his international allegiance in 2017.
Sadly for the Crystal Palace star, he was ruled out of Tuesday’s game after missing training on Monday with an injury. Palace fans will be hoping it isn’t a serious one.
Yet it was still a memorable evening for the visitors and hosts, as it was the first international game between the two nations.
“It’s fantastic,” Ivory Coast legend Kolo Toure told Sky Sports before the game. “I’m very surprised to find out this is the first time we are playing England… Ivory Coast has always had talent but we have struggled to qualify for the World Cup. We just have to make sure we put everything together to try to compete and win important games.”
They were unable to achieve a famous Wembley win after Aurier’s red card. It was a poor decision, as the ex-Spurs defender was picked up two yellows for a soft foul on Grealish and dissent towards the referee. Perhaps the decision was to the letter of the law – but it ruined the occasion.
Hopefully the next fixture between England and Ivory Coast is just around the corner… and no red cards will be shown.