While the Arnold Clark Cup final between England and Belgium awaits, the U23s of the two nations played out a friendly at Prenton Park. Goals from Missy Bo Kearns, Angela Addison, Anna Patten and Kiera Skeels sealed a 4-1 victory for Mo Marley’s side. Marie Minnaert scored the sole goal for Belgium.
The first half was relatively equally contested though England were on the attack more than their opponents. It was Liverpool’s Kearns who opened the scoring for the Young Lionesses. In front of a 1300-strong crowd in the stands of her club’s home ground, the midfielder collected Aggie Beever-Jones’s pinpoint pass and slotted it in. She earned herself a chorus of cheers from the fans, many of whom had come to support their scouse hero.
The Belgians started to show more hunger as the half went on, playing many balls down the right wing for Jarne Teulings to work her magic. In the 27th minute, Minnaert found herself past the scrambling England defence with only the keeper to beat. From point blank range, she made it 1-1 with the help of Shari Van Belle’s assist.
England came out of the second half a different team. Within 10 minutes of the restart, Beever-Jones skillfully made her way through the red shirts before passing it through to Addison. The Charlton Athletic forward put her team back in front.
Six minutes later, Patten got herself on the scoresheet to extend the lead. Poppy Pattinson’s shot was well stopped by Lina Lichtfus but the England skipper was first to the rebound.
Belgium were down, but not out. Substitute, Lisa Petry came close to getting one back for Belgium as she fired a shot on target which was parried away at full stretch by Kayla Rendell.
In the 87th minute, Kearns nearly earned herself a brace with a well-struck shot from outside the box, but the ball pinged off the crossbar. It was just before the final whistle when Skeels headed the ball in from a free kick out on the left wing to make it 4-1.
Belgium had their moments but were unable to fend off the attacks. Between Beever-Jones’s quick feet and Addison’s bursting runs, England had dominated the midfield and earned themselves a confidence-boosting win to end their international camp.
England: 13 Kayla Rendell (Southampton), 2 Jorja Fox (Brighton & Hove Albion, on loan from Chelsea), 3 Poppy Pattinson (Brighton & Hove Albion), 4 Ruby Mace (Leicester City, on loan from Manchester City), 6 Anna Patten (Aston Villa, on loan from Arsenal) (c), 7 Angela Addison (Charlton Athletic), 8 Missy Bo Kearns (Liverpool), 9 Emma Harries (Reading), 10 Laura Blindkilde Brown (Aston Villa), 11 Aggie Beever-Jones (Everton on loan from Chelsea), 16 Kiera Skeels (Charlton Athletic)
Substitutes: 18 Molly Pike (Leicester City) for Harries 60, 14 Mel Filis (West Ham United) for Mace 71
Substitutes not used: 1 Lucy Thomas (Birmingham City), 5 Mia Ross (Charlton Athletic), 12 Anouk Denton (West Ham United), 17 Asmita Ale (Tottenham Hotspur), 19 Tara Bourne (Birmingham City, on loan from Manchester United), 20 Ruby Grant (University of North Carolina), 23 Eleanor Dale (University of Nebraska), 24 Ella Morris (Southampton), 25 Paige Peake (Southampton)