Marcus Rashford’s stunning strike set England on course for a winning World Cup send-off as Gareth Southgate’s much-changed side produced a controlled performance against Costa Rica.
Just 11 days before their Group G opener against Tunisia, last night’s sold-out Elland Road friendly was the last chance for England to fine-tune before leaving for Russia.
Southgate made widespread alterations in a bid to test his options and, for the most part, was rewarded with an encouraging display, with Rashford superbly opening the scoring before Danny Welbeck, pictured, came off the bench to secure a 2-0 win against underwhelming Costa Rica.
Only John Stones kept his place from the side that started Saturday’s 2-1 friendly win against Nigeria – one of five Yorkshiremen in the line-up as England headed on the road for the first time since 2016 and made their first visit to Leeds in 16 years.
Rashford’s “flip-flap” provided some early excitement and earned an eighth-minute corner from which Phil Jones sent a looping header that was tipped over by Costa Rica’s star man Keylor Navas.
However, Real Madrid’s Champions League-winning goalkeeper could only watch in wonderment in the 13th minute as the ball flew in. Looking as confident as he appeared determined to impress, Rashford underlined his credentials with a stunning, dipping strike that beat Navas from 25 yards.
Navas spread himself well to deny Jamie Vardy from close range as England threatened a quickfire second, with Jack Butland, widely-expected to be back-up to Jordan Pickford, springing into action to deny Johan Venegas. It was Costa Rica’s only threat in a dominant first-half display by England.
Southgate’s men bossed possession as Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Fabian Delph impressed in midfield, with debutant Trent Alexander-Arnold holding his own at right-back.
Jordan Henderson saw a thumping effort denied by Navas, before Bryan Oviedo hacked off the line as Harry Maguire met the resulting corner with a header. The home side remained on top without exerting too much pressure and got the second they deserved in the 76th minute. Rashford played in Dele Alli and his low cross found fellow substitute Welbeck at the far post.
England were unable to find a way to add a third but emerged victorious – and seemingly without injury.