A professional England performance saw them retain the Arnold Clark Cup, after a 6-1 victory over Belgium.
Two goals for Chloe Kelly and Liam Williamson, along with one for Lucy Bronze and an own goal by Julie Biesmans sealed a comfortable win for the Lionesses. Although, Belgium’s Elena Dhont scored the goal of the game and the tournament.
From the off there were signs that the wings could play a pivotal part in how this game was going to be won. Jill Janssens had early success against Leah Williamson, but Chloe Kelly was the star early on.
The rapid Manchester City winger was too much for Jody Vangheluwe to handle, and her crosses were proving to be dangerous. Lauren James in particular should have turned one home eight minutes in.
However, it was both wings who combined for the Lionesses’ opener. James glided down the wing before cutting inside and having a shot, which wasn’t dealt with by Nicky Evrard, allowing Kelly tou bundle in from close range.
After the goal there was a lull. England keeping much of the ball, but not doing much with it from an attacking point of view.
There were signs too that Belgium could hurt England when they had possession, but slow ball movement from the Red Devils meant they had no meaningful attempts on goal.
Before the half, England turned the screw and scored their second. Lucy Bronze kept a corner alive by collecting at the far post, before hanging a ball up into the box and finding the head of Williamson.
There were claims of a handball by an England player, and the Belgians protested to the Serbian referee, but nothing was given, and Sarina Wiegman’s side headed into the dressing room two up.
What Ives Serneels and his side couldn’t afford at the beginning of the second half was another individual error, but five minutes in, it happened again.
A tame curling shot from Elle Toone was fumbled again by Evrard, and Kelly was there to tap in from close range to extend England’s lead.
Kelly could clearly smell a hat trick in air, and she embarked on her quest for the match ball by driving through defender after defender, but her shot was always rising.
A strew of chances followed for England. Alessia Russo’s header sailed just wide of the post, then Toone’s effort struck against the bar. The Lionesses were hungry for more goals.
And they got their wish for a fourth goal, but again it came from an individual error by the Belgians. Kelly played a surgical through ball into Georgia Stanway, and her cross was turned in by Julie Biesmans, who looked crestfallen at putting the ball into her own net.
There was still time for England to get their fifth at the end. A free kick from the by-line was, not for the first time, wasn’t cleared by Belgium. After bobbling about in the box, the ball fell to Bronze in the six-yard box, who side footed it in.
While their performance wasn’t great, Belgium did undoubtedly score the goal of the match. Elena Dhont picked the ball up on the edge of the box and unleashed an effort that floated over Mary Earps, who had nothing to do all game.
Incredibly, England did score a sixth goal on the final whistle. A shot by Lauren Hemp was blocked, but Evrard committed to making the save at her near post, meaning Williamson had an easy pass into the net.
Apart from a longer than needed Mexican Wave in the second half, it was a great night for England, who retain their Arnold Clark crown.
After the game, I spoke to England defender Millie Bright.
“We’re buzzing,” Millie began. “We’ve come into this tournament, we wanted to win, that’s part of our DNA. We want to win everything that we compete for and play in. But it’s also been a really successful camp. Players have got exposure, players who don’t usually get the minutes have got the minutes.
“I think as a team we’ve grown and developed, and we’ve highlighted areas we need to improve, but on the flip side it’s a really dominant camp for us, and it’s good to win the cup once again.”