England secure comfy win over Costa Rica in final warm-up match

Date published: Thursday 7th June 2018 9:52 - Joe Williams

England marked their final warm-up match ahead of the World Cup in Russia in perfect style with a 2-0 victory over Costa Rica at Elland Road.

Trent Alexander-Arnold was handed a start on his England debut against Costa Rica, with manager Gareth Southgate making 10 changes for the final World Cup warm-up.

The Liverpool right-back had already been promised a first senior appearance but was present from the off at Elland Road alongside a host of players looking to catch Southgate’s eye at the 11th hour.

Danny Rose began at left-back at the end of a week in which he has spoken out about his battle with depression and racism in Russia.

Manchester City defender John Stones was the only player retained from the 2-1 win over Nigeria, with the likes of Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Fabian Delph and Jamie Vardy among those with the most to gain.

Loftus-Cheek was bright in the early stages, bringing the ball forward from midfield with authority and playing a neat first-touch pass off his in-step after venturing to the edge of the Costa Rica box.

A seventh minute free-kick in a dangerous area promised much, but when Delph hung a cross towards the far post Harry Maguire was judged to have fouled Costa Rica goalkeeper Keylor Navas.

Delph’s delivery from the corner flag earned England another chance to attack and Phil Jones’ stooping header almost caught Navas off his line.

If that was a warning, the Real Madrid man did not heed it.

With 13 minutes gone, Marcus Rashford collected the ball in an innocuous looking area, but the Manchester United man had spotted Navas drifting forward and whipped a brilliant strike towards the top corner.

The shot sailed over the keeper’s head and struck the net sweetly, with a nonchalant celebration suggesting this was not Rashford’s first time.

England came close to a second after 20 minutes, having been driven upfield by a pair fleet-footed dribbles by Rashford.

Delph floated a cross to the back post and Maguire nodded it in Vardy’s direction in the six-yard box.

The Leicester man perhaps hesitated just a moment and allowed the busy Navas to smother.

Costa Rica’s first chance came out of nothing, Johan Venegas lashing first time and forcing Jack Butland into a diving save.

The first half ended without further addition to England’s 1-0 lead, but that continued to look more likely than an equaliser against unambitious opponents.

Delph and Loftus-Cheek continued making good impressions in the midfield, passing well and finding gaps, while Rose was the preferred wide outlet ahead of the largely quiet Alexander-Arnold.

The Leeds crowd had turned the volume down a notch after peaking with a rendition of ‘football’s coming home’ following Rashford’s effort but gave a satisfied ovation at the whistle.

England conceded two minutes into the second half against Nigeria but avoided the same fate this time, keeping the ball in the Costa Rica half where possible.

In the 56th minute Henderson came close to doubling the lead when he crashed a loose ball hard at Navas following good hustling from Vardy.

Navas fended the ball for a corner, from which Maguire’s downward header was cleared off the line by Bryan Oviedo.

Danny Welbeck, the only outfield player not to start either of the last two games, was given half an hour up front in place of Vardy before Southgate revisited his bench for a quadruple change.

There was a debut for third-choice goalkeeper Nick Pope as well as run outs for Dele Alli, Kieran Trippier and Gary Cahill – who took the captain’s armband off Henderson.

With 15 minutes to go England finally made the result safe, with two substitutes combining to make it 2-0.

Alli picked up a pass from Rashford and lifted the ball across the penalty area for Welbeck.

He needed to stretch to make his diving header count but he ended up making just the right contact to nod home.

Jesse Lingard was England’s sixth and final substitute, taking the place of the highly impressive Loftus-Cheek for the closing minutes.

There was enough time for Pope to make one regulation save at his near post before the final whistle, as Costa Rica belatedly tried to snatch something to no avail.

 

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