There was a sense of excitement in Sunderland, as the Lionesses were back in action on home soil. The horns were ringing out and the flags of St George were waving around the Stadium of Light long before kick-off, as once again the fans came out in their droves to get behind the England women’s national team.
One month on from the FIFA Women’s World Cup final, the lionesses were looking to put the heartbreak from down under behind them as a new tournament began the UEFA Women’s Nations League kicked off.
Sarina Wiegman chose to start this Women’s Nations League campaign off without striker Alessia Russo who was being given extra rest in preparation for Tuesday’s game in the Netherlands. But Wiegman did make three changes to the squad that started the World Cup final, Katie Zelem, Lauren James and Chloe Kelly came in replacing Keira Walsh, Ella Toone and Russo.
Before the game, there was a well-observed minute silence for Sheffield United player Maddy Cusack who tragically passed away this week.
England got off to a great start in the early going with a string of chances putting Scotland on the back foot.
Scotland had barely made it into the England half but the first time that they did efficiently, Mary Earps was forced into action making a great save from Caroline Weir.
England thought they had broken the deadlock in the 25th minute, as Zelem’s corner kick was met by Daily whose bullet header found the net but after the roof came off the Stadium of Light as fans celebrated, the referees judged that Chloe Kelly was in an offside position impeding Scotland goalkeeper Lee Gibson.
Scotland fired back as Martha Thomas was inches away from latching on to a through ball to give the Scots the lead.
Shortly after Scotland were denied a potential penalty, England finally made the breakthrough with a little over five minutes to go in the first half. As Katie Zelem’s deep ball over the top of the Scotland defence found Lucy Bronze and her header flew past Gibson who could do nothing but watch it go in the net.
The Lionesses doubled their lead on the stroke of half-time as Daily was found with time and space on the right and she delivered a pinpoint cross into Lauren Hemp whose brilliant header found the goal.
The half wasn’t over as Scotland gave everyone a big surprise especially the fans who were still celebrating Hemp’s goal, England lost the ball on the edge of their six-yard box with Scotland finding Claire Emslie out on the right and her low pass into the box was bundled home by Kirsty Hanson.
Into the second half, both sides had early chances but to no avail, Lauren James came closest but her shot from the edge of the box curled just wide.
During the second half, the fans were enjoying themselves and so they should as a Mexican wave started going for five of six rounds then fans started getting their phone lights out like it was a Coldplay concert.
Caroline Weir had a chance to level the game up, as England tried to play out from the back and lost the ball again. England was making some unusual mistakes, while Scotland was just playing their game and frustrating the Lionesses.
With 15 minutes left England seemed to be a bit rattled as Scotland started getting into the game a bit more. Earps was brought into action punching a cross away only as far as Hanson whose snapshot looped over Earps and crashed against the crossbar.
With over five minutes to go Scotland was pushing for an equaliser as Caroline Weir offered Scotland yet another opportunity. The ball was received out wide by Lisa Evans, who then cut it back for Weir, but the ball went straight into the gloves of Mary Earps because she wasn’t able to make the desired connection.
England could have had a third goal, but Lauren James was judged to be offside, although TV replays suggest that it was an extremely close call. Nevertheless, even though it wasn’t a stellar performance, even though it wasn’t perfect, England is up and running in the Women’s Nations League.
In tonight’s other League A game in the Women’s Nations League Belgium came from behind at home to pull off a big win against the Netherlands. Jill Roord gave the Dutch the lead 15 minutes into the second half, but the Red Flames hit back a minute later through Marie Detruyer. Then won it three minutes into stoppage time as Jassina Blom bagged the winner in Heverlee.
The lionesses travel to the Netherlands on Tuesday to take on the Dutch in Utrecht.