Alessia Russo and Mead both score twice as Lionesses dominate Austria 7-2

Estimated read time 4 min read

England’s new beginning, leading up to their first match in the Euro 2025 qualifiers in April, began with a bang as Sarina Wiegman tested out several players who have been on the sidelines of a team that has consistently advanced from one competition to another without much opportunity for trying out new players.

“I am extremely pleased with Grace [Clinton], she successfully scored a goal, which is a great achievement for her,” stated Wiegman. “She has a natural talent and easily grasps the concepts we discuss. She takes feedback well and confidently applies it on the field.”

The Lionesses may have indulged in the comforts of a Marbella hotel by the sea earlier this week, but their arrival at the Estadio Nuevo Mirador was a more modest affair. Approximately 950 fans traveled to Algeciras, an hour’s drive south of Marbella, and were met with a heavy rain that caused many to seek shelter and leave the uncovered stand before the first half ended. The opposite covered stand remained mostly vacant.

The Lionesses made an unusual decision to play against Austria in a challenging location that was reminiscent of stadiums from the pre-professional era. However, Wiegman’s team brought creativity and flair to the dull setting, highlighted by Alessia Russo’s early goal in the third minute. The Arsenal player received a pass from her teammate Beth Mead and although her shot was saved by Manuela Zinsberger, Russo was able to score the rebound. The team had made four changes since their previous match against Scotland, where they scored six goals but ultimately did not qualify for the Nations League finals or Olympics.

Fran Kirby was substituted as a precaution due to a knee injury during the warm-up, with Ella Toone taking her place and Hannah Hampton starting in goal.

Maya Le Tissier started the match as the right-back in substitution for Lucy Bronze. Grace Clinton, a midfielder from Manchester United on loan at Tottenham, made her debut appearance.

In the 16th minute, she nearly scored by striking the ball with her left foot off the inner part of the crossbar. However, she only had to wait three minutes for a perfect opportunity when she skillfully used her head to redirect Lauren Hemp’s cross from the left.

Grace Clinton celebrates her first England goal with Maya Le TissierView image in fullscreen

Austria performed poorly, not resembling the strong team that challenged England in the first match of Euro 22 at Old Trafford. However, Wiegman’s team also contributed to their downfall. Despite England’s dominance, Austria was able to exploit a weakness in set pieces and score one goal, with Virginia Kirchberger heading in from a corner in her 99th appearance. The Lionesses continued their strong performance and extended their lead to two goals before halftime, with Mead scoring a powerful shot after cutting inside. Wiegman made two changes during halftime, using this friendly game as an opportunity to experiment with new players and combinations. “These friendlies allow us to see many players and try out different combinations. We have another tough match against Italy on Tuesday,” she stated.

Lotte Wubben-Moy substituted for Alex Greenwood, and Lauren James, who contributed to five of England’s nine goals in their December matches, took over for Hemp.

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Shortly after the 60-minute mark, Russo scored her second goal from inside the box. Three substitutions were made shortly after, with Rachel Daly replacing Russo and Jess Park and Carter also being brought on. Within seven minutes of entering the game, Carter contributed to England’s score with a clever backheel that deceived Zinsberger.

Kirchberger scored another goal from a corner, revealing to England where their defensive weaknesses lie. It should be noted that England’s top center-backs, Leah Williamson and Millie Bright, were not playing in this match. Just a minute later, James ran past the defense and took a low shot that hit the bottom of the post. Mead was able to capitalize on the rebound and score. Substitute Daly scored a seventh goal for the team, sprinting through the middle and unleashing a powerful shot past Zinsberger.

The task has been completed and new combinations have been tested. England’s first game of 2024 showed many positive aspects, including their performance with set pieces and against tougher opponents. These questions can be addressed at a later time.


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