Rachel Daly’s head was the star of the show as the Lionesses earned a 2-1 victory over a resilient Italy side in front of a record-breaking crowd at Coventry Building Society Arena to put themselves in a great position to retain the Arnold Clark Cup.
England would start the game on the front foot, but the Italians would have the first significant chance on four minutes after an impressive solo run from Aurora Galli allowed her to lay the ball off to Valentina Giacinti in the box, but her low shot wasn’t enough to beat Ellie Roebuck, who easily saved the effort and caused an uneventful corner.
The Lionesses would quickly click back into gear and have an effort of their own just two minutes later, an effort from Daly that tested Laura Giuliani and was well-saved by the Azzurre’s keeper, with the follow-up cross from Lauren Hemp leading to nothing.
Sarina Wiegman’s side would continue to press and shut down anything the Italians created, with their reward coming in the 32nd minute after a cross from Brighton’s Katie Robinson found the head of the always impressive Daly, allowing her to head past Giuliani and give England a deserved lead, much to the enjoyment of the sell-out crowd in Coventry.
It was almost two on the stroke of half-time when Keira Walsh put her own ball into the box and towards the head of Daly again, but this time the Aston Villa forward could only direct her effort towards the crossbar, a relief for Italy as the break came immediately after with both sides still very much in the game.
England came out for the second half in the same manner that they ended the first, creating several chances for the likes of the ever-present Daly and her club teammate Jordan Nobbs, but the Azzurre’s defence did well to deal with whatever was thrown at them.
Out of nowhere, Italy found themselves on the scoresheet on 61 minutes after Barbara Bonansea crossed the ball towards substitute Sofia Cantore, with the resulting header being fumbled by Roebuck and barely crossing the line, levelling the scores and shocking the system of both the crowd and Wiegman’s players alike.
The Lionesses’ despair would last all of nine minutes however, when Chelsea star Lauren James made an immediate impact off the bench, whipping in a superb cross that once again called the head of Daly into action, allowing her to get her brace after guiding the ball past Giuliani and into the bottom left-hand corner to restore England’s lead.
The game fizzled out after this point, allowing the Lionesses to secure another three points in their quest to retain the Arnold Clark Cup, something they’ll be in an even better position to achieve depending on Belgium’s result against Korea Republic.
On the other hand, Milena Bertolini’s Italy side put in a promising performance that they’ll hope to use the momentum from when they face the Koreans in Bristol in their final fixture of this international break.
Photo: Toju B