Palmer strikes and Eze sparkles as England put three past Bosnia-Herzegovina

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Palmer strikes and Eze sparkles as England put three past Bosnia-Herzegovina

England rally late to begin their Euro 2024 preparations with a 3-0 win over Bosnia-Herzegovina in Monday’s friendly at St James’ Park.

England‘s preparations for Euro 2024 commenced with a somewhat unconvincing 3-0 victory over Bosnia-Herzegovina at St James’ Park in Monday’s international friendly.

On the back of their disappointing March double-header with Belgium and Brazil, an experimental Three Lions side were comfortably repelled by their conservative visitors in a scoreless first half, where the atmosphere was flat and the football was lackadaisical.

However, a typically venomous penalty from Cole Palmer sparked a late goal rush in the second half, where Trent Alexander-Arnold and substitute captain Harry Kane added some gloss to the scoreline in an ultimately routine success.

Despite the three goals and the clean sheet, there was not a lot to shout about from Southgate’s team as a collective unit, and hopes of European Championships glory should not have been raised significantly in the North East.

Nevertheless, a couple of fringe players showed plenty of promise in their bid to make the final 26-man Euros selection, which Southgate only has a few more days to mull over.

Eze, Palmer light up lukewarm first half

© Reuters

With as many as nine troops absent for various reasons – including Jude Bellingham, Bukayo Saka, Phil Foden and Anthony Gordon – tonight was the night for some of Southgate’s outsiders to shine and give their manager Euro 2024 food for thought.

Jarrod Bowen, Cole Palmer, Eberechi Eze and Ollie Watkins all benefitted from their teammates’ injuries and club commitments to start at St James’ Park, but the home crowd did not get their money’s worth in the first 45.

As Bosnia set up in a low block, England – despite their overwhelmingly dominant possession – were flattering to deceive when it came to chance creation, although the efforts of Nikola Vasilj in the visitors’ goal were also to be credited.

However, Chelsea star Palmer and Crystal Palace wing wizard Eze did their utmost to spark life into a tepid Three Lions side, the former slipping in a cute ball for Watkins to test Vasilj from a tight angle in the ninth minute.

Eze – chosen over Jack Grealish to trouble Bosnia down the left – then took three defenders out of the game with some wonderful trickery in the 27th minute to force a corner, which ended with Vasilj making a top save to deny Ezri Konsa from six yards.

Barring the odd bright flash from Palmer and Eze, though, there was little for the Three Lions faithful to get excited about, and a tame injury-time shot from Bowen – which fell into Vasilj’s palms – summed up a lacklustre opening 45.

Kane scores inevitable insurance goal

Southgate sent the same XI onto the field for the second 45, where the Three Lions threw caution to the wind and opted for a more direct approach, forcing an early succession of corners which came to nought.

However, a dead-ball situation would lead to the hosts’ opener on the hour mark, as Benjamin Tahirovic dragged down Konsa from a corner, and a check of the monitor from referee Rohit Saggi ended with a penalty being rightfully awarded.

With no Kane or Saka on the pitch, Palmer stepped up, and after several deep breaths, the full debutant gave the Three Lions the lead with a clinical spot kick into the bottom corner, despite the best efforts of Vasilj’s hand.

That was Palmer’s final contribution as he took his leave in a quartet of substitutions, allowing Adam Wharton and Jarrad Branthwaite to come on for their England debuts, and Southgate’s rejigged men did not rest on their laurels in search of goal number two.

Their efforts would seemingly go unrewarded, until the 85th minute, when Alexander-Arnold – who had sparkled in midfield all evening – found himself unmarked from Grealish’s cross and found the far side of the net with an exquisite volley.

Bosnia could feel hard done by regarding the 2-0 scoreline, and their evening became more chastening in the 89th minute, when Bowen’s goal-bound strike was blocked by his own man in Konsa, but the rebound fell for Kane to fire England’s third through Vasilj’s body and just over the line.

What next for England after Bosnia win?

Southgate’s men will now enjoy three full days of recovery before competing in their second warm-up match, welcoming Iceland – their Euro 2016 conquerors – to Wembley on Friday evening.

The Three Lions boss does not have to submit his final squad before kickoff, but his selection must go to UEFA by midnight on June 7, leaving him with very little tinkering time following the final whistle.

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