England started their World Cup campaign with a late 2-1 win against Tunisia at the Volgograd Arena on Monday evening.
Gareth Southgate’s troops had the perfect start as Harry Kane’s close-range finish saw the Three Lions take the lead within 11 minutes. Tunisia equalised in controversial fashion as Sassi struck from the penalty spot before Kane netted again in the 91st minute to steal the three points for the Three Lions.
A chance fell to England within the first three minutes as Jordan Henderson played an excellent ball to Raheem Sterling but the Manchester City man took too long to get his shot off. Dele Alli then profited off of a Tunisia mistake and fed Jesse Lingard but an excellent, low save from Mouez Hassen denied the attacker.
It did not take too long for the Three Lions to take the lead, however. From a corner, John Stones produced a thunderous header that was again well-saved by Hassen again. The ball fell to Kane only a few yards out and the England skipper finished easily with a low strike.
The Tunisians were forced into a change only a quarter of an hour into the game as their stopper was withdrawn with what looked like a troublesome shoulder injury.
Three Lions continue to threaten
The promising start from England continued as Henderson tested Farouk Ben Mustapha, who had replaced the stricken keeper, with a low drive that was well held.
Lingard then had a great chance as he peeled away at the back post to latch onto Ashley Young’s teasing cross. The ball simply bobbled off the end of his foot and behind though.
Controversial penalty costs England
Just as the Three Lions looked to notch again, Tunisia were controversially given the opportunity to equalise from the spot. Kyle Walker was adjudged to have brought down Fakhreddine Ben Youssef down with an outstretched arm and the referee pointed to the penalty spot. Sassi stepped up and slammed into the bottom corner.
Pandemonium in the Tunisia penalty area almost saw Southgate’s men retake the lead but John Stones failed to make a telling connection with the ball and it bobbled away.
Lingard also had two great chances before the break. He first had a great drive deflected away from the Tunisia net before poking the ball goalwards but saw it bounce back off the post.
Second-half problems for England
The second period started at a starkly lower tempo. The first real opportunity came Kieran Trippier’s way as his free-kick floated just wide mid-way through half.
With the final whistle edging yet closer, England finally got their act together and netted a late winner thanks to Kane. From yet another corner, Harry Maguire headed towards goal with Kane leaping forwards to nod in from close range with only minutes left on the clock.
The game looked to be ending with real contrasting emotions; England were almost frustrated, whilst Tunisia were nearly delighted. The Three Lions started with real verve and vigour but could have been denied by a highly-controversial penalty. Kane, though, stepped up exactly when England needed him most.
On the other hand, Tunisia deserve credit. They were well organised, tough in the tackle and deserve their draw. They will look forward to their clash with Belgium on Sunday. England, meanwhile, will hope to edge towards qualificaton against Panama.
Tunisia: Hassen (N/A) (Ben Mustapha (6), 15′); Maâloul (7), Meriah (6), S. Ben Youssef (8), Bronn (7); Skhiri (7), Sassi (8); Badri (7), Khazri (7) (Khalifa (N/A), 85′), F. Ben Youssef (6); Sliti (7) (Ben Amor (6), 73′).
England: Pickford (6); Walker (7), Stones (7), Maguire (7); Young (6), Lingard (6) (Dier (N/A), 90+3′), Henderson (6), Alli (6) (Loftus-Cheek (N/A), 80′), Trippier (6); Kane (8), Sterling (5) (Rashford (7), 68′).
Goals: Kane (11′, 90+1′), Sassi PEN (35′)
Referee: Wilmar Roldan
Yellow Cards: Walker (34′)
Red Cards: N/A
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