London (AFP) – Ollie Watkins scored on his first start for England on Tuesday as Gareth Southgate’s rejigged side beat 10-man Ivory Coast 3-0 at Wembley.
The new-look home team took time to settle on a cool spring evening in London but first-half strikes from Watkins and captain Raheem Sterling either side of a red card for the visitors put them in total control.
Manager Southgate was able to give some of his first-choice players a run-out in the second half.
The game fizzled out as a sporting contest as England lost their rhythm but Tyrone Mings headed home from a corner in stoppage time to add gloss to the scoreline.
Southgate took the opportunity to assess some of his fringe players, making 10 changes from the side that beat Switzerland 2-1 at the weekend.
In the final match before the World Cup draw on Friday, Arsenal defender Ben White was the only player to retain his place for the Euro 2020 finalists,
The impressive Jude Bellingham went close to opening the scoring in the 15th minute but Ivory Coast goalkeeper Badra Ali Sangare diverted his shot onto the post.
England were ahead in the 30th minute when Manchester City forward Sterling produced some neat trickery on the left before squaring for Aston Villa forward Watkins to tap in.
Ivory Coast — who failed to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar — were given a mountain to climb when former Tottenham player Serge Aurier was sent off by Belgian referee Erik Lambrechts five minutes before half-time for a second bookable offence.
Sterling rubbed salt into the visitors’ wounds on the stroke of the break after a fluent team move.
His initial effort was kept out by Sangare but Jack Grealish expertly returned the ball to his club teammate on the half-volley and Sterling finished crisply.
England were awarded a penalty in the opening moments of the second half but the decision was overturned afer substitute Fousseny Coulibaly was adjudged to have won the ball.
Southgate showed the depth of resources at his disposal with about half an hour to go, throwing on Harry Kane, Phil Foden, Luke Shaw and Emile Smith Rowe, with Grealish, Watkins and Sterling among those to make way.
England were unable to recapture the energy and zip of their earlier play, with Ivory Coast intent on damage limitation, before Mings’ late goal.
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