England 3-0 Ivory Coast: Sterling stars in easy win as Aurier sees red

By Sports Desk March 29, 2022

Raheem Sterling played a starring role with the captain's armband as England cruised to a 3-0 friendly win over Ivory Coast, who had Serge Aurier sent off in the first half.

Gareth Southgate made 10 changes from the team that beat Switzerland 2-1 on Saturday, though at no point did that look an issue for the Three Lions, whose record unbeaten run was extended to 22 matches – excluding penalty shoot-outs.

Sterling was at the centre of much that was good about England in the first half, teeing up Ollie Watkins for the opener and then providing a finish just before the interval having seen Aurier dismissed moments earlier.

An England penalty was then overturned early in the second half, and the Three Lions looked like settling for a two-goal win during a disjointed second 45 minutes until Tyrone Mings headed a last-gasp third.

England were dominant right from the start and almost went ahead in the 15th minute, but Jude Bellingham's close-range effort was nudged onto the post by Badra Ali Sangare.

The visitors' goalkeeper was helpless a quarter of an hour later, though, as Sterling beat Aurier and squared across the six-yard box for Watkins to tap in.

Ivory Coast's chances of a turnaround were further damaged when Aurier was shown a second yellow card for dissent in the 40th minute, and soon after it was 2-0 thanks to Sterling's close-range finish from Jack Grealish's cut-back.

The VAR spared Ivory Coast a penalty concession early in the second half after Fousseny Coulibaly was initially penalised for a clean tackle on Bellingham.

Just when the game appeared to be petering out, Mings saw his header from a corner crash into the ground and bounce up to find the top-right corner in stoppage time.
 

What does it mean? Fringe players get a chance to impress

In truth, this ended up being little more than a training session that just happened to be attended by fans and televised, especially after Aurier's dismissal.

Nick Pope in the England goal will not have had many (any?) easier matches in his entire career, but further forward there were certainly a few players who grasped their opportunity with both hands.

Bellingham was particularly good, while Watkins got himself on the scoresheet and Emile Smith Rowe looked tidy after coming on in the second half.

Sterling shimmers

This was an excellent hour or so from the Manchester City star. Pep Guardiola probably grimaced when the forward was on the end of a heavy early tackle, but from then on he was a real threat, having a hand in the first two goals – it was the first time he had scored and assisted in an England game since October 2019.

Aurier surprises no one

There was a degree of mystery around Aurier's second yellow card for a moment, though it soon emerged he was punished for dissent. It was needless, as was his tough tackle on Grealish for his first yellow. But if anyone was a prime candidate for a first-half red card, Aurier was always going to be the man.

What's next?

England begin their Nations League campaign away to Hungary on June 4, but before that they will turn their attentions to Friday's World Cup draw.

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