In a game that almost didn’t happen. England took on Austria in a qualifier for the World Cup in two years. The setting is Sunderland’s stadium of light, the home club of so many of our Lionesses, it was set up to be a great albeit windy match. The occasion was especially grand as it was set to be Ellen White’s 100th cap.
It didn’t start well for the home side as a slip up by Demi Stokes straight into the path of an Austrian striker. Likely their attack amounted to nothing.
However, England soon picked up the pace with Hemp controlling the left-wing and pinging a great cross for Beth Mead however Mead could not quite control it. Then it was England’s game to lose with so many chances but nothing to test Zinsburger.
One player you could feel was hungry for a goal was the home town hero Beth Mead who would not stop pressing. However, a little selflessness would have done England good as a shot could have set Ellen White up perfectly.
Fran Kirby is back on fine form controlling the midfield with Ella Toone. The link-up play between both Kirby and Mead was a sight to be seen. Both of them causing trouble for the Austrian defence.
You can see the away team had studied the form of England as they kept the ball, low and tight through the middle. Frustrating the wingers as every cross being met by a crowded box. England not being allowed to play the free-flowing football that they normally enjoy.
A breakthrough came around the 39th minute and of course, it was the centurion herself Ellen White who scored. A lovely run by Fran Kirby with a pinpoint cross and the poacher got her goal. 1-0 to the leaders of the group.
England could have doubled their lead moments later with Lauren Hemp shooting from outside the box however it was a comfortable save for Zinsberger.
Ellen White tried again from inside the box and it was painfully wide.
The second half started as it was meant to go on. It was a scrappy affair with loose balls and even looser touches. Austria almost levelled with a rocket from Zadrazil but was denied by a slightly fumbled save.
Mary Earps made up for that with an out of this world save. Fingertips over the bar to deny a pressing side.
The referee seemed reluctant to give either side anything more than a talking to or free-kick. England were victim to this when a penalty shout was denied for a rough challenge on Beth Mead. Their protests fell on deaf ears and play was waved on.
England had shot after shot but could not finish. Either flying wide or closed by down by defenders. Austria making the game very narrow, crowding the box out.
The final whistle blew, with only Ellen White’s first-half goal separating the two sides.
From the dugout:
Sarina Wiegman stated that she was happy with the performance however the team started to slip in the second half with loose balls and incorrect decisions. The real test will come in February.
Ellen White commented that her International career had come full circle having made her debut against Austria in 2010 and scoring then too. When asked about Kelly Smith’s record, White played it down saying her focus was on winning against Latvia and making sure she played her part to do so.
England XI: Earps, Daly, Stokes, Walsh, Greenwood, Bright (C), Mead, Kirby, White, Toone, Hemp.
Subs: MacIver, Hampton, Charles, Stanway, Carter, Wubben-Moy, Parris, Nobbs, England, Scott, Russo, Zelem.
Austria XI: Zinsberger, Naschenweng, Plattner, Wenninger (C), Dunst, Zadrazil, Wienroither, Kirchberger, Billa, Puntigam, Hanshaw.
Subs: El Sherif, Pal, Horvat, Fuchs, Schiechtl, Triendl, Georgieva, Hobinger, Eder, Wienerroither, Schasching, Enzinger