England retain Arnold Clark Cup with thumping win over Belgium

England have successfully retained the Arnold Clark Cup after securing an emphatic 6-1 win over Belgium to take maximum points and lift the trophy for the second year in a row.

Sarina Wiegman has used this tournament to experiment and picked a young side for Sunday’s 2-1 victory against Italy. But the team that walked out against the Belgians looked something like the one fans might see when the Lionesses begin their World Cup campaign against Haiti on 22 July.

It didn’t take long for Chloe Kelly to give England an early lead at Ashton Gate in Bristol. The goal was created by the impressive Lauren James, who continued to stake her claim for a long-term starting place, with Ella Toone taking defenders away with a smart run and Kelly bundling the ball in.

The Lionesses were playing well in open play, although it was a more direct move that brought the second from Leah Williamson. There was a degree of controversy with a potential handball from Alessia Russo in the build-up, but Lucy Bronze’s cross was headed in by the skipper at the back post.

Barely had the second half got underway when Kelly got her second and England’s third. Toone was again involved, this time firing the ball into the box, only for Belgium goalkeeper Nicky Evrard to spill it into the path of the grateful Kelly – she couldn’t miss.

Those goals ensured that Kelly finished with the Golden Boot, an award famously shared by Alexia Putellas and Millie Bright at the end of the 2022 edition.

England proceed to run up the score-line late on, sparked by an own goal from Julie Biesmans, who turned the ball into the net just in front of a waiting Rachel Daly.

Daly was in a good position to try and add to her tournament tally when Lauren Hemp crossed from a corner, but instead it was Bronze who headed it in instead.

Belgium scored the goal of the match when Elena Dhont lashed the ball into the top corner from 30 yards, spoiling a clean sheet for Mary Earps, who was not happy about it. But Williamson ensured England had the final say by finding the bottom corner with a precision finish in stoppage time.

In the day’s earlier kick-off, Italy picked up their first points after beating South Korea 2-1 thanks to goals from Juventus pair Arianna Caruso and Martina Rosucci, the latter scoring in the 95th minute.

Le Azzurre finished third in the final standings as a result, having lost their opening two games against Belgium and England, while the Koreans head home with three defeats and no points.

England (4-3-3): Earps; Bronze, Bright, Williamson, Greenwood (Carter 63′); Stanway, Walsh (Wubben-Moy 81′), Toone (Park 81′); James (Hemp 46′), Russo (Daly 73′), Kelly