Northern Ireland Women vs England Women. Women's World Cup Qualifying Group D.
Match report as goals from Georgia Stanway, Lauren Hemp and Ella Toone move England Women to verge of World Cup finals with 5-0 win over Northern Ireland, who can no longer qualify, in final competitive game before this summer's European Championships
Wednesday 13 April 2022 07:50, UK
Doubles from Georgia Stanway and Lauren Hemp moved England Women to the verge of the World Cup finals with a 5-0 win in Northern Ireland.
Sarina Wiegman's side now need only a point from their next qualifier, against Austria in September, to seal their place in next year's competition in Australia and New Zealand, but even defeat in that game would leave them only needing to beat Luxembourg in their final game to progress.
Having scored 10 goals in each of their three away qualifiers before travelling to a packed Windsor Park, the Lionessses found their hosts far more stubborn opponents and could only find their way past Jacqueline Burns once before half-time, when Hemp's unorthodox close-range finish looped over her.
They found life easier going after half-time as the hosts began to tire, with Ella Toone ghosting in unmarked to grab her 10th England goal seven minutes into the second period, and it was soon three when Hemp added her second after rounding Burns.
Stanway then netted the first of a nine-minute double with a simple finish after good work from Toone on the left, before rounding off the scoring with a hooked half-volley around Sarah McFadden which nestled in the bottom corner.
The hosts' defeat, coupled with second-placed Austria's 8-0 win over Latvia, means they can no longer qualify for the finals owing to their inferior head-to-head record.
Manager Sarina Wiegman called England's performance "mature" in one of the tougher atmospheres they have played in over recent years, in front of nearly 16,000 fans in Belfast.
Just as the vocal home support may have remained stubborn, so were the hosts in an opening 45 minutes where England enjoyed more than 80 per cent of possession but were found wanting at times by their stoic back five.
Patience proved as key as quality for the Lionesses, who once again kept up their intensity and were given their just rewards as Northern Ireland struggled to keep up.
The visitors' second owed something to luck with Hemp's air kick acting as the perfect dummy for Toone to ghost in and finish, and their third likewise when Leah Williamson's slide-rule pass was cut out by McFadden, but fell kindly for Hemp to round Burns and score.
By the hour mark the hosts were showing real signs of fatigue, as Toone was given space to turn inside from the left and make an unchecked run into the box to square for Stanway to net. It was a similar story for the fifth, with Hemp's knockdown turned home by the Man City midfielder under a tired challenge from McFadden.
"It was a very mature performance in a great atmosphere and a big occasion," Wiegman told BBC Sport.
"In the first half we wanted to be a little more clinical, we created lots of chances, but when you win 5-0 in the second half we kept moving, they got tired, and the scoreline is really good."
Northern Ireland manager Kenny Shiels made a controversial comparison between men and women's football in his post-mach comments, labelling the latter as a 'more emotional sport' when discussing his team's performance - despite none of England's goals coming closer than nine minutes apart.
He was quoted as saying: "In the women's game I've noticed that when a team concedes a goal they concede a second one in a very very short period of time, right through the whole spectrum of the women's game, because girls and women are more emotional than men.
"So, they take a goal going in not very well."
Former Everton and Liverpool striker Courtney Sweetman-Kirk told Sky Sports:
"It wasn't great in the first half, they could've been more dynamic but credit to Northern Ireland, they banked up and made it difficult, so England couldn't find the spaces initially.
"It was much better in the second half, being clinical in front of goal and the movement was much better. It's job done for England, is the best way to put it.
"I think Lauren Hemp was immensely impressive, not only with the goals but her assists and the way she dragged England out in the second half. Ella Toone was also very good, now England are playing with two 10s she had a great game, especially the way she made the fourth goal.
"Being dogged and determined in your defending and making life difficult for a better team is something you've just got to do and the question for Northern Ireland is whether they can do that on a longer period in a game."
England Women are next in action in June as they play two friendlies in preparation for the Euros which kicks off in July. Sarina Wiegman's side play Belgium on June 16 and the Netherlands on June 24, before their opening game of the tournament against Austria on July 6.
Northern Ireland, who share the same group as England at the Euros, begin their tournament against Norway on July 7.
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