Sport World Cup 2018

Monday 22 October 2018

Rashford adds to Southgate's Tunisia options

England 2-0 Costa Rica

England's Danny Welbeck scores their second goal. Photo: Reuters/Jason Cairnduff
England's Danny Welbeck scores their second goal. Photo: Reuters/Jason Cairnduff

Mark Critchley

If places truly are still up for grabs in England's starting line-up to face Tunisia in ten days' time, then Marcus Rashford is surely in with a chance.

On a night when Gareth Southgate gave his second-string players a chance to play their way into England's World Cup opener in Volgograd on June 18, none impressed more than the Manchester United youngster, whose stunning 13th-minute strike sent England on their way to a dominant, if not emphatic, victory at Elland Road.

England's Trent Alexander-Arnold in action. Photo: REUTERS/Phil Noble
England's Trent Alexander-Arnold in action. Photo: REUTERS/Phil Noble

Rashford was not the only one to stake a claim. Danny Rose was included after his revelations on the depression and personal tragedies that have blighted him this past year and impressed at left wing-back.

Promise Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Fabian Delph showed promise in midfield, Jordan Henderson held England together well behind them and there was a goal for substitute Danny Welbeck, the only outfield player in Southgate's squad not to start either of these final warm-up friendlies.

Yet Rashford will be the one at the forefront of the England manager's mind after not only a spectacular goal but also a bright all-round performance. He may not have left it too late to displace Dele Alli, Raheem Sterling or another of the attacking talents this squad can boast.

England began Elland Road's first international fixture since 2002 well, pinning and pressing the visitors in their own half but no player caught the eye more than Rashford, whose close control and fearless running caused Costa Rica problems all night.

England manager Gareth Southgate applauds fans after the match. Photo: Reuters/Jason Cairnduff
England manager Gareth Southgate applauds fans after the match. Photo: Reuters/Jason Cairnduff

What he and his team-mates lacked was space to shoot, with white shirts blocking off their initial advances, but once Rashford finally found room out on the right-hand side he sent a wicked, dipping effort over Keylor Navas and in. One of several United players booed by small sections of the Yorkshire crowd before kick-off, Elland Road cheered Rashford's name in unison now. It was only the third goal of an international career that is now into its third year, but it will give Southgate pause for thought.

If Rashford is to start in Volgograd on the back of this performance, it may mean that England retain the two-striker formation deployed here. His partner up top, Jamie Vardy, almost added a second goal some minutes after the first but Navas smothered at close range.

The Real Madrid goalkeeper was Costa Rica's most involved player in the opening half, with his team-mates offering nothing but a Johan Venegas shot from range that was parried by Jack Butland. Other than that, England's only regret at the interval was that for all their domination they had not tested Navas more.

Henderson, standing in as captain for Harry Kane, lashed a bouncing ball from just outside the penalty area at the start of the second half, but Navas beat it away.

A deserved second finally arrived with quarter-of-an-hour to play. Rashford had a hand in it again, combining well with Alli on the left. He centred for Welbeck, who converted with a diving header.

Independent News Service

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