Northern Ireland’s World Cup Qualifying chances have ended in Belfast, as the Lionesses extend their unbeaten run with a 0-5 win. England maintain their position at the top of Group D, now sitting just a point away from qualification.
The stage was set at Windsor Park with a record-breaking crowd for women’s football in Northern Ireland. Over 15,300 fans packed out the stadium to cheer the home side on.
Kenny Shiels’ side were able to frustrate the Lionesses at their last meeting, especially in the first half of the game, so the English visitors were prepared for a tougher fight than their previous 10-0 thrashing of North Macedonia. But they were still able to improve on their last performance against the side and get one step closer to World Cup Qualification.
Manchester City teammates Lauren Hemp and Georgia Stanway scored two goals each for England, with Manchester United’s Ella Toone adding a fifth to improve on the scoreline of the reverse fixture at Wembley last year.
It was Hemp who opened the scoring in the 26th minute, playing a one-two with Toone before dinking it into the corner of the net and giving Northern Ireland’s Jacqueline Burns no chance to get her hands on it.
There had been plenty of other chances earlier on with Ellen White trying to leapfrog Wayne Rooney’s England goalscoring record, but her attempt was disallowed.
Before half-time there were further attempts at goal, including another from White, but Burns was able to push it away and the off-side flag was up. Hemp also tried for a second, heading a cross from Lucy Bronze, but the ball flew over the woodwork.
Northern Ireland also applied some pressure but couldn’t find an equaliser before the break.
England came back ruthless in the second half, ending the home side’s hopes of matching their tally. It took just 7 minutes for Toone to double England’s score, getting her 6thgoal of the qualification campaign. Pushing past severalNorthern Irish defenders, Bronze’s cross from the edge of the box fell to Toone, who slotted the ball neatly into the back of the net.
Mary Earps then made her first save of the game as Lauren Wade took a shot, fed the ball from Joely Andrews who was able to break forward from the England defence.
On the hour Hemp scored her second. She was able to dodge Burns and tuck the ball into an empty goal, assisted by newly appointed England captain Leah Williamson.
Her Manchester City colleague Stanway was then on hand to score twice in less than 10 minutes, matching the side’s Wembley performance and then adding one more. The first was set up by Toone and fired in from inside the box, with the second strike sent into the bottom right of the net.
In the last minutes of the game, Burns was able to deny Hempthe chance to secure a hattrick, and Chelsea’s Millie Bright also narrowly missed the goal in extra time.
England will play two home games against Belgium and the Netherlands in June in preparation for EURO 2022.
EURO 2022 will be Northern Ireland’s first international tournament with the side going head-to-head with World Cup Qualifying opponents England and Austria.
England (4-3-3): Mary Earps, Lucy Bronze, Jess Carter(Rachel Daly 66’), Keira Walsh, Leah Williamson (c), Millie Bright, Beth Mead (Nikita Parris 71’), Georgia Stanway(Jordan Nobbs 87’), Ellen White (Bethany England 65’), Ella Toone, Lauren Hemp
Substitutes not used: Hannah Hampton, Katie Zelem, Gabby George, Demi Stokes, Alessia Russo, Ellie Roebuck, Niamh Charles.
Northern Ireland (5-3-2): Jackie Burns, Abbie Magee(Caragh Hamilton 82’), Julie Nelson, Sarah McFadden, DemiVance, Kelsie Burrows (Rebecca McKenna 75’), Marissa Callaghan (c), 10 Rachel Furness (Chloe McCarron 61’),Joely Andrews (Nadene Caldwell 75’), Simone Magill, Lauren Wade (Kirsty McGuinness 61’).
Substitutes not used: Becky Flaherty, Toni Leigh Finnegan, Rebecca Holloway, Megan Bell, Kerry Beattie, Emily Wilson.