England were made to work hard for victory in their first pre-Euro 2022 friendly as they ran out 3-0 winners over a stubborn Belgium side at Molineux on Thursday evening.
Nicky Evrard was in inspired form in the Belgium goal, making a selection of fine saves to keep the scores level at the break, before goals from Chloe Kelly, Rachel Daly and an Evrard own goal eventually saw the Lionesses to a deserved victory.
Evrard was called into action twice inside the opening 15 minutes, first getting down quickly to tip Ellen White’s volley around the upright after she was picked out by Beth Mead, before palming away Lauren Hemp’s near post effort following a signature mazy run from the England winger.
Georgia Stanway’s strong, surging drive finished with her firing narrowly past the wrong side of the post, while White failed to connect cleanly from close range after the ball trickled into her path from a corner as chances continued to go begging.
Feli Delacauw sent a half volley just wide for Belgium either side of a pair of opportunities for Mead; the Arsenal winger skewed narrowly over after working an opening for herself with a terrific piece of skill, before bringing another good save from Evrard with a stinging effort.
It was Leah Williamson’s turn to be denied before the half was out. The impressive Evrard was finally beaten by the England captain’s clever dink, only for Sari Kees to pop up with a goal line clearance.
The deadlock was finally broken just after the hour mark – and in fortuitous circumstances. Kelly cut inside on the right flank, and her effort was deflected into her own net by Amber Tysiak.
Daly crashed home a volley minutes later to double England’s advantage, before Williamson’s effort cannoned onto the bar and in off the unfortunate Evrard to put the game beyond doubt.
GK: Mary Earps – 6/10 – Looked very calm and composed with the ball at her feet. Not called into action until second half stoppage time, comfortably claiming Minnaert’s tame header.
RB: Lucy Bronze – 7/10 – Saw a lot of joy down the right with a cluster of trademark marauding runs. Combined well with both Mead and Kelly.
CB: Millie Bright – 6/10 – Kickstarted a couple of England attacks with a handful of pinpoint cross field diagonals. Not her busiest evening defensively.
CB: Lotte Wubben-Moy – 6/10 – Won a couple of important headers to halt potentially dangerous Belgium attacks. Replaced at half time.
LB: Demi Stokes – 6/10 – A typical Demi Stokes performance – nothing flashy, sound defensively, got forward and combined well with Hemp on occasions. Replaced at half time.
CM: Leah Williamson – 7/10 – Often found herself unmarked in midfield and was frequently an option for the back four to play out via. Denied a goal by a goal line clearance following a run from deep and dinked finish.
CM: Keira Walsh – 7/10 – Typically quietly efficient in possession. Drew a good stop from Evrard in the second half with a sweet strike from the edge of the box.
CM: Georgia Stanway – 6/10 – Skewed wide with England’s first sighting of goal, before firing narrowly past the wrong side of the post following a surging run. Surrendered possession on a couple of occasions, but always quick to win it back.
RW: Beth Mead – 7/10 – In the thick of the action. Picked out White in the build up to England’s first clear cut chance, sliced narrowly wide following a terrific piece of skill to work the opening for herself and teed out Williamson with a cheeky back heel. Replaced at half time.
ST: Ellen White – 5/10 – Drew a great save from Evrard inside 11 minutes after connecting cleanly with Mead’s cross. Failed to connect with a pair of close range opportunities, which she would be expected to bury.
LW: Lauren Hemp – 7/10 – Forced Evrard into a near post save following a trademark weaving run and strike. Typically effervescent.
Sub: Chloe Kelly – 7/10 – Opened the scoring for England by cutting inside and finding the net with a deflected effort.
Sub: Alex Greenwood – 6/10
Sub: Rachel Daly – 7/10 – Grabbed England’s second with a sweetly struck left-footed volley.
Sub: Beth England – 6/10
Sub: Fran Kirby – 6/10
Sub: Nikita Parris – 6/10
GK: Nicky Evrard – 7/10 – Saved terrifically to deny White from point blank range in the opening exchanges, and made a couple of other good stops to keep out Mead, Hemp and Walsh.
RB: Laura Deloose – 5/10 – Had a tough time of it up against the always dangerous Hemp. Switched to left back in the second half, and beaten by Kelly in the build-up to England’s opener.
CB: Sari Kees – 7/10 – Kept out Williamson with a goal line clearance in the first half, doing well to read the danger and scamper back behind her goalkeeper. Replaced at half time.
CB: Laura De Neve – 5/10 – Lost track of White on a couple of occasions and fortunate not to be punished.
LB: Davina Philtjens – 5/10 – Struggled to deal with the combining Mead and Bronze, who caused plenty of problems down the Belgium left.
RM: Sarah Wijnants – 6/10 – Blazed over from the edge of the box on the stroke of half time. Switched to right back in the second half.
CM: Julie Biesmans – 6/10 – Tidy in possession when on the ball, but Belgium spent large spells of the game without it, with Biesmans unable to exert her influence.
CM: Feli Delacauw – 6/10 – Couldn’t direct a half volley as she sent Belgium’s first clear sighting of goal wide.
LM: Marie Minnaert – 5/10 – Didn’t offer Deloose a great deal of protection, with Bronze constantly able to get at her.
CAM: Tine De Caigny – 5/10 – Tried to play close to Wullaert, but Belgium were largely limited in their opportunities to get forward and De Caigny’s attacking impact was restricted.
ST: Tessa Wullaert – 5/10 – A quiet return to English football for the former Manchester City forward, largely left to feed off scraps. Blazed well over with her only clear sighting of goal.
Sub: Charlotte Tison – 5/10
Sub: Amber Tysiak – 5/10
Sub: Kassandra Missipo – 5/10
Sub: Jody Vangheluwe – 5/10
Sub: Davina Vanmechelen – 5/10