England got their Euro 2022 campaign off to a winning start as they edged to a narrow 1-0 victory over a resilient Austria in front of a Women’s European Championship record crowd at Old Trafford on Wednesday evening.
Beth Mead’s dinked finish after 16 minutes proved decisive, as England spent much of the evening frustrated by their well-drilled opponents.
The Lionesses looked edgy in the opening exchanges, surrendering possession on the edge of their own box on a couple of occasions as the enormity of the occasion sunk in.
A much needed nerve-settler came after 16 minutes courtesy of Mead. The Arsenal winger latched onto Fran Kirby’s delivery and lifted the ball over Manuela Zinsberger to give the Lionesses the lead.
Ellen White saw a golden opportunity to double England’s advantage go begging as she glanced Hemp’s teasing cross the wrong side of the post, while Verena Hanshaw sliced Austria’s only real sighting of goal in the first half high and wide.
Fran Kirby put a little too much on her cut back to Hemp on the stroke of half time, forcing the Manchester City winger to take an additional touch and allowing Zinsberger to rush out to save, as England headed into the break with a narrow lead.
England introduced a trio of substitutes just after the hour mark, with youngsters Alessia Russo, Ella Toone and Chloe Kelly entering the fray, and the game became more stretched.
Kelly dragged an effort just wide after a surging run, before Barbara Dunst drew a strong, stretching save from Mary Earps after cutting in from the left hand side.
Earps was called into action again as the clock ticked down and nerves began to jangle around Old Trafford, keeping hold of Julia Hicklesberger-Fuller’s low strike as the Lionesses got over the finish line.
GK: Mary Earps – 6/10 – Distribution was really decent under pressure, picking out Bronze with a couple of pinpoint cross field diagonals. Saved well from Dunst in the second half.
RB: Lucy Bronze – 6/10 – Created England’s first sighting of goal with a whipped back post delivery. Always an outlet for the Lionesses to play out from the back via.
CB: Leah Williamson – 6/10 – Preferred at centre back following her outings in midfield. Effective at playing out from the back, teamed up well with Bright to keep Billa quiet.
CB: Millie Bright – 7/10 – Cut out a number of crosses from the England right and brought the ball out of defence well on occasions. Really solid and robust.
LB: Rachel Daly – 6/10 – Won plenty in the air, very solid defensively. Smart and composed when playing out from the back.
CM: Keira Walsh – 8/10 – A little edgy at first but oozed class once she’d settled down. As cool and calm as you like on the ball, picking out a number of impressive cross-field passes.
CM: Georgia Stanway – 8/10 – Strong and tenacious in and out of possession, keeping the ball really well even when being hustled by a pair of Austrian midfielders. Combined nicely with Walsh, quieter in the second half.
CM: Fran Kirby – 6/10 – Her first competitive start since February and what an occasion for it. Drifted into pockets, tidy and efficient without setting the world alight. Set up the goal.
RW: Beth Mead – 7/10 – Looked England’s most composed player in the early exchanges, consistently making smart decisions while others looked edgy. Gave England the lead with a well taken finish. Switched to the left during the first half, replaced just after the hour.
ST: Ellen White – 5/10 – Glanced a glorious chance to double England’s lead narrowly wide. Tidy in possession but largely well marshalled by Austria’s two centre halves.
LW: Lauren Hemp – 6/10 – Frequently opted to deliver quickly rather than embark on her trademark slalom runs, teeing up White for a big chance in the first half.
SUB: Chloe Kelly – 6/10
SUB: Alessia Russo – 6/10
SUB: Ella Toone – 6/10
GK: Manuela Zinsberger – 6/10 – Saved well from Hemp on the stroke of half time, rushing out quickly to deny the City winger.
RB: Laura Wienroither – 7/10 – Did a very good defensive job on Hemp, preventing her from wreaking her usual havoc. A combative, resilient display.
CB: Carina Wenniger – 7/10 – Made a last-ditch block to keep out White early in the second half. Doubled up well with Wienroither to limit Hemp’s impact.
CB: Viktoria Schnaderbeck – 6/10 – Did a good defensive job on White, restricting the England striker’s impact on the game. Replaced with 14 minutes remaining.
LB: Verena Henshaw – 6/10 – Got forward frequently, sliced over Austria’s only real opening of the first half. Lost track of Mead for England’s opener.
RM: Barbara Dunst – 6/10 – Teamed up well with Wienroither to do a good defensive job on Hemp. Drew a good save from Earps in the second half.
CM: Sarah Puntigam – 6/10 – Sound and steady without setting the world alight.
CM: Sarah Zadrazil – 5/10 – Not able to have her usual impact on proceedings, kept relatively quiet.
CM: Laura Feiersinger – 5/10 – Very dogged in midfield, harrying Stanway with every inch of her being.
LM: Katharina Naschwenweng – 5/10 – Given the space to deliver on a couple of occasions but her crosses usually failed to get the better of Bright. Flashed a half chance wide early in the second half. Replaced just before the hour.
ST: Nicole Billa – 5/10 – Did plenty of running but largely kept quiet by Bright and Williamson, and didn’t have a sniff of goal.
SUB: Julia Hicklesberger-Fuller – 5/10
SUB: Marina Georgieva – 5/10
SUB: Marie Hoblinger – N/A