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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Bright and Kirby push England past Germany to secure Arnold Clark Cup | Women’s football

Sarina Wiegman said England have taken “lots of information” from their 3-1 victory against Germany – only their second in 27 attempts – and inaugural Arnold Clark Cup win but will not get carried away before the European Championship in the summer.

“This was a step towards the Euros,” the England manager said. “We will stay neutral. This was successful. We have grown a lot but we know the opponents in the Euros will be too. We weren’t tight enough on the ball so that was hard for us but then you can come back to your fundamentals. I am happy with this tournament. We got lots of information about ourselves and where we are in our style of play.”

With draws against Canada and Spain, England topped the standings in the friendly tournament based on goal difference, after finishing level on five points with Spain.

Ellen White scored the opening goal in front of 13,463 fans to join Sir Bobby Charlton on 49 goals for England and to move within four goals of Wayne Rooney’s record.

Her effort was cancelled out by Lina Magull’s powerful free-kick in the first half, but Millie Bright’s poached strike on the rebound after a mazy run and shot from Lauren Hemp helped England towards three points and Fran Kirby added the flourish with a blistering goal on the counterattack in added time.

Millie Bright scores England’s decisive second goal.
Millie Bright scores England’s decisive second goal. Photograph: Nick Potts/PA

The sight of the defender Bright posing with a golden boot alongside the Ballon d’Or, Fifa Best and Uefa player of the year winner, Alexia Putellas, after scoring her second goal of the tournament was a strange one.

Wiegman had said it did not matter who was scoring for England, as long as the team were, but Bright’s volley against Canada was their only goal of the tournament before this game.

Against a depleted Germany, with 12 regular squad members unable to be called up because of injury or Covid, Alex Greenwood and Bright were partnered in defence, Chelsea’s Jess Carter was shifted to left-back and Lucy Bronze was favoured, familiarly, on the right. Behind them, Manchester City’s Ellie Roebuck was given the opportunity to attempt to win back her No 1 shirt, making her first start under Wiegman.

Almost instantly England’s greatest threat, the fearless winger Hemp, went to work on the left, causing problems for the Bayern Munich defender Maximiliane Rall, but the breakthrough, 15 minutes in, came from a more tried and tested source.

Georgia Stanway, operating as a No 10, neatly played in Kirby but her shot was intercepted by Jana Feldkamp who passed the ball straight back into the feet of the Chelsea forward. She sent White through the middle and the striker calmly slotted past Merle Frohms.

It is impossible to write eight-time Euro winners off regardless of key absentees such as Alex Popp, Melanie Leupolz, Dzsenifer Marozsán and Almuth Schult but it took a moment of brilliance to break through England’s new steely backline. Magull’s free-kick, courtesy of Greenwood’s foul on Lea Schüller just outside the box, was exactly that, smacking down off the underside of the bar and in.

If there was any deflation at having conceded a second goal under Wiegman, there was consolation to be taken in the quality of the two strikes shipped in the past six days – a far cry from the scrappy and chaotic goals conceded before she arrived.

England’s Ellen White celebrates scoring their first goal.
Ellen White takes the fans’ acclaim after scoring the opener. Photograph: Jason Cairnduff/Action Images/Reuters

Changes were made at half-time in both of England’s storm-swept Arnold Clark Cup games but here, in kinder climes, the Dutch manager did not ring the changes as readily – bar an enforced one in the 34th minute, with Rachel Daly coming on for the injured Carter. This tournament has very much been a chance for Wiegman and her staff to test partnerships, the versatility of players and formations, but this was the time to see how the closest first-choice starting XI available to her would cope in a competitive matchday scenario.

With England struggling in the final third again, though, Stanway made way for the Arsenal winger Nikita Parris just past the hour mark, shifting Kirby more central.

The impact was instant, with Parris injecting energy on the wing and the world-class Kirby far more effective stationed closer to White.

Unwilling to be outdone by the Lionesses record goalscorer, in the 84th minute and with England in the ascendency, a sweeping run from Hemp ended with her shot deflecting off Feldkamp into the path of Bright who fired in to give England the lead.

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“We wanted to get some extra energy in the game and score a goal. We needed an extra player up front, she’s really strong, a good header of the ball and good with her feet. I know that’s a risk, but it went our way,” Wiegman said of Bright’s presence up top late on.

There was further cause for celebration when Kirby raced away, after a headed clearance from Bright, three minutes into six minutes of added time. Her shot squeezed past Frohms to confirm a first win against Germany on home soil and to maintain Wiegman’s unbeaten record as England manager.

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