England’s late flurry downs Croatia to qualify from Nations League group.

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England 2 : 1 Croatia

A late pair of goals from Jesse Lingard and Harry Kane dragged England from a goal down to a 2-1 victory over Croatia and top Group A4 in the Nation’s League.

Gareth Southgate’s side had to show plenty of steel after falling behind in the second half to an Andrej Kramaric strike.

Accused of being too one-dimensional in their World Cup semi-final clash, England saw to mix up their style of play. The triangles of passes which served them so well against the USA were in play once more and caused the Croatians problems.

Teamed with relentless pressing and the usually assured World Cup finalists looked flustered.

Much like their World Cup clash 130 days ago, England got off to a hot start but failed to capitalise. While the stakes were not as high in this encounter, this was still a test for a team still undergoing a transition.

Raheem Sterling, Ross Barkley, Ben Chilwell and Kane all had decent half chances for the hosts in the first 45 minutes but failed to test Lovre Kalinic in goal.

Both Sterling and Marcus Rashford flanked Kane in the English attack and had the Croatia full-backs reeling at times in the first half. Rashford’s night would come to a premature end, having to be withdrawn for Jadon Sancho. The Manchester United forward headed straight down the tunnel – not a sight that Southgate or club manager Jose Mourinho will want to see.

After the break Croatia played with much more urgency.

The second half was 12 minutes old when Kramaric spun himself away from John Stones and took aim at Jordan Pickford’s net. The shot deflected off Eric Dier’s thigh before looping over the Everton goalkeeper. Another huge test now faced this young England team.

The World Cup finalists were almost out of sight two minutes later. Barkley was dispossessed and the ball was worked over to Marcelo Brozovic but the Inter Milan midfielder sent his effort over the bar.

The usually dependent Pickford then had a wobble. A wayward pass from the England shot stopper’s loose pass presented a chance to Ivan Perisic but his effort was flashed across goal

Southgate’s men finally got the goal their performance merited 12 minutes from full time. Joe Gomez sent in a long, high throw-in which was met by Stones at the far post. His knockdown fell to Kane to toe-poked the ball goalward with Lingard on hand to nudge it across the line.

Their hard work was almost immediately undone however. Pickford was alert to beat away Domagoj Vida’s towering header off the line.

With just five minutes to play England struck again to seal their qualification. Chilwell curled in a delightful free-kick which was met by a sliding Kane and the ball nestled in the back of Kalinic’s net.

The full-time whistle was met with roars befitting of any lion as England had passed yet another huge test.

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