First Two Wins of 2024 For The Lionesses

Emily Laycock
Emily Laycock

The Lionesses were back in action for the first time in 2024 with two friendlies in Marbella this week, both played at the Estadio Nuevo Mirador.

England women’s senior team joined up with the under-23s squad in Spain for a warm-weather training camp with the Young Lionesses taking on Spain and the Netherlands, and the senior side facing Austria and Italy.

The teams training together gives opportunities for young players to link up and train with the senior squad, and this week Bristol City defender Naomi Layzell was one of the ones taking the step up.

The Euros 2022 winners got the 2024 calendar year off to the perfect start with a 7-2 victory over Austria.

Having won all nine previous encounters with Austria with eight clean sheets, it looked set to be a game that England would dominate - and that they did.

Alex Greenwood captained the side with Hannah Hampton starting in goal and Grace Clinton ready to make her international debut.

Alessia Russo opened up the scoring just three minutes in when she was the quickest to react to the rebound of Beth Mead’s cross-shot from close range, opening the scoring.

The advantage was doubled by twenty-year-old Grace Clinton who marked her “dream debut” with a goal, heading home Lauren Hemp’s cross at 19-minutes. The Manchester United midfielder is having an incredible WSL campaign on loan at Tottenham and impressed Wiegman enough to earn another call-up at this camp.

Speaking after the game, Clinton said: “Going into the game, it was probably the biggest one of my career so far, so for it to go like that, I’m very happy.”

Austria halved the deficit after a brief lapse in concentration from England, but Beth Mead reinstated the two-goal lead before half-time with a curling finish past her Arsenal teammate Manuela Zinsberger.

Just after the hour mark, Georgia Stanway set Alessia Russo up to score her second and England’s fourth with the Arsenal striker slotting past the Austrian goalkeeper before Jess Carter flicked home the fifth in the 70th minute.

Austria’s Kirchberger scored her brace with a second consolation goal for her side, heading home from a cross, but the relentless England pressure and dominance continued as Beth Mead scored her second goal after Lauren James’ shot on the counter-attack was denied by the post.

Rachel Daly rounded off a perfect evening in Spain with a close-range finish after finding herself one-on-one with Zinsberger.

Wiegman praised her side after the game saying: “I’m just really happy with this game, the way we played, the intentions we had.

We scored seven goals which is really good and created a lot of chances.”

Their next test was on Tuesday evening against Italy. The last time the Lionesses faced Italy was at last year’s Arnold Clark Cup when they won 2-1, but the Italians have since had a change of head coach and finished second in their UEFA Women’s Nations League group.

Mary Earps started in goal with Kiera Walsh pulling on the captain’s armband and Lotte Wubben-Moy starting in defence.

The Arsenal defender netted her first England goal just 70 seconds in, heading the ball into the back of the net to start the scoring early - this was her first start in 18 months.

Manchester City’s Lauren Hemp scored two further goals before half-time, both from corners, to put the Lionesses in the driving seat heading into the second 45-minutes.

When asked about goals from set-pieces, Wiegman said: "We are always working on it, we had a little more emphasis on it.

It’s really good to see it had some effect and hopefully we can do that again.”

Just before the break, Italy responded to England’s fire and dominance as Cambiaghi reduced the deficit, slotting the ball past Earps in the third minute of additional time.

Fuelled with confidence from their late goal in the second-half, the Italians applied the pressure but could not find the back of the net with substitutes Lauren James and Ella Toone combining to score England’s fourth at 69-minutes. Alex Greenwood played the ball over the top to find James on the right with the latter crossing it to Manchester United’s Ella Toone to direct into the top corner.

Rachel Daly rounded off another England win as she pounced upon Laura Giuliani’s error, slotting the ball into an open net to make it 5-1.

It was two wins from two for Sarina Wiegman’s side with the England manager saying after the game: “I think the whole camp pleased me.

We had the opportunity to play many players, basically everyone except for Fran [Kirby], see what the level is, see players in some positions and the connection between players.

When you have two wins like we have that’s really nice too.”

Another successful international break for England with 12 goals scored, two wins secured from two matches, and impressive debut performances puts them in a good position ahead of their Euro 2025 qualifying campaign later this year.

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