2018-06-18 15:59:05
England Survives Testy Tunisia in World Cup Opener

15:59, June 18 325 0

Harry Kane scored a 91st minute winner, his second headed goal of the match, as England defeated Tunisia 2-1 in Volgograd Monday night, narrowly averting a disastrous result against the lethargic Tunisians.

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Here’s how England beat Tunisia, from Kevin Draper:

On England’s seventh corner kick of the match, Harry Maguire met the ball at the penalty spot, and deflected it to the back post, where Harry Kane was waiting to head it past Farouk Ben Mustapha.

Once again, Harry Kane doesn’t go for the first ball, but instead lets one of England’s towering center backs jump into the scrum, and he puts away the second ball.

The fourth official signals 4 minutes of added time. If England can’t find a winner ...

After a nice move, Ruben Loftus-Cheek cuts a perfect pass back to Marcus Rashford, but he bizarrely lets it roll past. Did a teammate call him off?

Matthew Futterman: It’s amazing. Tunisia cannot hold the ball for more than seven seconds, can’t get the ball over midfield, can’t complete three consecutive passes, and yet the scoreboard is dead even.

Tunisia take off striker Wahbi Khazri, bringing on Saber Khalifa. Because of the early substitution for injured goalkeeper Mouez Hassen, it’s Tunisia’s final substitution.

Farouk Ben Mustapha punches away a corner, slamming into John Stones in the process. Both stay down for a moment, but look to be okay carrying on.

Chelsea youngster Ruben Loftus-Cheek comes in for Dele Alli, as England chases a late winner.

England lets a gilt-edged chance go wanting, after Dele Alli is bundled over 25 yards from goal. Lacking an elite set-piece taker, Ashley Young takes the subsequent free kick and kicks the ball well over the goal.

Matthew Futterman: England may yet score two goals, but in the last few minutes their pace has slowed and the runs don’t have the same zip as earlier. They have to be incredibly frustrated to not be up 6-1.

England had 12 shots, 6 on target, in the first 45 minutes. They’ve only had 3 shots, 1 on target, in the past 30.

Tunisian winger Naïm Sliti comes off, replaced by Mohamed Ben Amor.

Substitute Marcus Rashford almost slid Harry Kane in on goal, but a last minute Tunisian slide tackle ended the chance.

Matthew Futterman: England is supposed to be younger and faster and more fit than ever. It’s still warm here, and this is usually the part of the game where they begin to start walking around the field and turning a shade of pink. If Tunisia can survive another few minutes they may escape this drubbing.

Just before an England free kick, Marcus Rashford comes in for Raheem Sterling. Sterling made a number of good runs today, but looked off every time he had the ball at his feet.

England really pouring it on here. Center back Kyle Walker made a darting run forward, looking for the 1-2, and center back Harry Maguire found his way forward even though there was no set piece.

English manager Gareth Southgate has to be thinking about which of his substitutes can unlock the Tunisian defense. Jamie Vardy? Marcus Rashford? Danny Welbeck?

England is practically camped out in Tunisia’s penalty box, but hasn’t been able to get a clean shot on goal.

Tunisia surprisingly looks like they’re interested in committing men forward for a second goal. Twice, Jordan Pickford has had to spring forward to clear a ball near the edge of his box, the most active he’s been in this game since the penalty.

An England corner is headed directly at the Tunisian keeper, but the replay shows Harry Kane being wrestled to the ground, at least the second time that’s happened. The referee is uninterested.

Compared to the pulsating first 45 minutes, the beginning of the second half has been tame, with the teams trading possession back and forth in the midfield.

The second half is underway. Expect Tunisia to bunker down and protect their one point, while England will likely take another dozen shots. But will they get any of them to go in?

The set piece-heavy World Cup continues. Harry Kane scored for England early off a corner kick rebound, but Tunisia equalized on a Ferjani Sassi penalty, their only shot on target in the half. England made every cross, cut back, through ball, knock down and killer pass, but couldn’t finish a thing. Going into halftime even is a huge disappointment for the Three Lions.

Given the positions England took shots from in the first half, you would’ve expected them to score 2.18 goals. Instead they scored just the one. The good news is that, in many ways, creating good chances is more difficult than finishing them. The bad news, of course, is that they can’t finish.

A through-ball puts Jesse Lindgard in a race with the on-rushing Tunisian keeper. Lindgard wins and taps the ball around Farouk Ben Mustapha, but is unable to catch up and can only wince as it rolls off the post but not in.

Harry Maguire, the English center back, is a menace in attack. His nice knockdown header sets up a good half-volley chance for Jesse Lindgard, but his shot is deflected out.

A goalmouth scramble gives numerous England players an opportunity to put a shot on goal but they all whiff.

As Dr. Joe Machnick explained on the Fox broadcast, every single penalty decision is reviewed by the video assistant referee system, and despite the protestations of England, this one stood. If you need a refresher, here’s how the VAR system works.

Battling for a cross, Kyle Walker put his arm in the face of Tunisia attacker Fakhreddine Ben Youssef. As he fell, Colombian referee Wilmar Roldan called the penalty.

Ferjani Sassi calmly slots a penalty into the bottom left corner, past a diving Jordan Pickford. We’re tied, 1-1.

Matthew Futterman: And there, Mr. Draper, is your England mistake! On cue...

No surprise, Volgograd Arena absolutely explodes as Ferjani Sassi converts the penalty. Tunisia doesn’t get to the World Cup very much, and its fans have descended here in force. Whabi Khazri was wide open on the left and about to collect a pass in a dangerous spot when he slipped. If Tunisia could ever steal another goal and go into halftime with a lead, oh my...

Harry Maguire heads a Kieran Trippier free kick on frame, but it’s easily saved by replacement keeper Farouk Ben Mustapha. A few English players appealed half-heartedly for a penalty, believing Maguire was held, but the referee showed no interest.

Sloppy defending by England leads to a chance for Tunisia, but a shot from the top of the box, subsequent corner, and speculative header all fail to seriously threaten. It is hard to imagine Tunisia scoring off of anything other than an English mistake.

Tunisia with their first shot! Unfortunately it comes from about 35 yards out, and is blasted about that high over the goal.

This night might get worse before it gets better for Tunisia, as it’s all one way traffic right now. England is finding plenty of space behind the Tunisian defense, slotting through balls and cutting beautiful passes back to the penalty spot.

Matthew Futterman: After 20 minutes Tunisia looks completely incapable of threatening England here with any kind of sustained attack. England’s three-man back line is becoming a one-man back line because Tunisia can’t seem to manage more than two passes in the middle of the field. If England can start connecting on all the sitters this game is going to get ugly.

We have an extended stoppage as trainers surround Tunisian goalkeeper Mouez Hassen, who walks off the field holding back tears. He’s being subbed out here, adding insult to injury for Tunisia.

Hassen went down once earlier in the match, but resumed and made a wonderful diving save on the John Stones header. It is unclear what is wrong with Hassen, but he has been replaced by Farouk Ben Mustapha.

The dam finally bursts! Off of a corner, John Stones’s towering header is barely parried away by the Tunisian goalkeeper Mouez Hassen, but Harry Kane is right there to put away the rebound. A perfect poacher’s goal.

Tunisia gets their first extended spell of possession and works the ball into the final third, but an errant pass goes out for an England throw-in.

Matthew Futterman: So, England is dominating early but may have left its finishing boots in the hotel. If you are an England fan, you are either thinking this is great because the team has created three great chances at the goal in the first 10 minutes, or, here we go again, the major tournament hex continues.

The last chance was Raheem Sterling in a nut shell. He did the hard part right, making a perfect late, looping run around three Tunisian defenders to get open for Lindgaard. But when the pass arrived, it somehow wrong-footed him, and bounced off his shins for a goal kick.

Again England breaks forward, and again they can’t convert. Jesse Lindgard slots a beautiful ball across to Raheem Sterling, but he is unable to get a solid foot on the ball to put it into the open goal.

England is already assaulting Tunisia’s goal. A ball over the top unleashed Dele Alli, but his square ball across the goal to Raheem Sterling was half cleared, and Jesse Lindgard’s follow-up subsequently bundled out for a corner.

We’re underway! A couple of monochromatic squads, as Tunisia is wearing all white and England is in all red.

It was close to 90 degrees this afternoon in Volgograd. And tiny bugs flying all around the arena in swarms. In other words. If things go south for England as they sometimes do on these big stages, there are some built-in excuses. — Matthew Futterman