Rachel Daly’s volley and two own goals saw England sweep past Belgium in the first of three pre-Euro friendly matches.
Their manager, Sarina Wigman, has been demanding ruthlessness from the Liones since taking over the summer, but at Molineux she was forced to rely on her benches to spice up the team after a disappointing first half.
Chloe Kelly’s deflected shot and Daley’s impressive goal were the difference in the second half before Leah Williamson’s shot ricocheted off the crossbar and hit goaltender Nicky Evrard in the back.
There were few surprises in Sarina Wigman’s starting lineup. Arsenal centre-back Lotte Wubben-Moy lined up alongside Millie Bright in defence, with Alex Greenwood still back in place after Covid and Jess Carter worked on their full fitness after a tough season. Georgia Stanway, recently signed to Bayern Munich from Manchester City, received a nod ahead of Fran Kirby and Ella Thun at No. 10.
As this position represented the only real question mark ahead of England’s Euro kick-off game at Old Trafford on 6 July, it was interesting to watch Arsenal defender Williamson step forward to swap or play alongside Stanway and the coach study her. options beyond the expected trio of Stanway, Kirby, and Toone.
Wigman warned that Belgium would be a tough opponent despite 12 places separating them in the FIFA rankings. “Belgium has developed a lot and is also going to the Euro,” she said. “They can do a couple of things. They may play a bit on time, but they also want to play possession and they have good players. I think it will be a competitive game, and we want competitive games.”
Belgium open Group D of the Euro against Iceland at the Manchester City Academy Stadium, while Italy and France complete their group.
In the previous meeting between England and Belgium in August 2019, Phil Neville’s team squandered a two-goal lead and relied on a Nikita Parris penalty in the 75th minute to salvage a 3–3 draw in the team’s first game after the third-place game. -Loss to Sweden at the World Cup. However, for a team hoping to win a major tournament, Belgium, which they haven’t lost in 10 games since 1980, should be a small fry.
During the break, statistics spoke of dominance. The Lionesses had 66% possession and had 14 shots on goal. However, they struggled to find the ruthlessness that allowed them to score 72 goals in 11 games under Wigman before kick-off.
Lucy Bronze gave problems to Davina Filtjens and Marie Minnart from the right and hit the box several times, but her crosses weren’t accurate enough. Evrard did well, deflecting a close-range Ellen White header from a Beth Meade cross. The 27-year-old also deflected a near-post shot from Lauren Hemps after a labyrinthine run from the left before being saved by defender Sari Kees, who prevented England captain Williamson from scoring the first goal with an armband. clearing from the line after she had interrupted the ball to the goalkeeper.
The other arm of the captain and all the England players wore a black bandage worn in memory of Wigman’s sister after her recent passing.
Wigman and colleague Ives Cerneels were visibly disappointed by a slightly boring first half and switched places at half-time. Daly replaced Demi Stokes at left back, Greenwood replaced Wubben-Moy, and Kelly replaced Mead. Belgian defenders Kes and Laura De Neve made way for Amber Tisiak and midfielder Charlotte Tison.
Beth England and Kirby will also join the fray an hour later while Wigman searches for a key to unlock Belgium’s organized defense.
Unfortunately for Belgium, the key for England was the foot of substitute Tisiak, who deflected Kelly’s shot into the near post after the winger took a Bronze pass and rolled into the box.
The crowd of 9,598, not a very impressive figure for a friendly preparation for a home tournament, breathed a sigh of relief when the ball hit the net. England were rewarded for their patience with a cleaner goal shortly after, with a corner going around the penalty area before falling to Daley near the penalty spot, with versatile striker Houston Dash volleying to increase his team’s lead.
Williamson herself was not on the scoresheet, but played a big part in England’s final goal. The ball rebounded to her feet after Evrard deflected a header from substitute Nikita Parris from a corner and the midfielder hit the crossbar, which bounced off the goalkeeper’s back and went inside.