After months of preparation, England opened their Euro 2017 campaign up last night against Scotland. It was a muggy evening in Utrecht as over 5,000 English and Scottish fans gathered in the Stadion Galgenwaard to cheer on their two sides amongst heightened security.
On paper, England were the favourites. Bronze medalists in Canada and all the investment that has come since has made the world’s fifth placed side many people’s bets to take home the gold medal this summer. But, as we well know, nothing is certain in football and these particular derbies can be banana skins. There was no complacency therefore in the personnel Mark Sampson picked to start for the Lionesses. With Jade Moore and Jill Scott partnering in midfield, they added an extra shield to the back-line as well as allowing the forward players to express themselves.
On the other side, Anna Signeul named a Scotland line-up that had to adapt to the loss of Kim Little, Jennifer Beattie and Emma Mitchell through injury. However, there was strong mix of experience and youth as they made their major tournament debut. Caroline Weir was the one too watch for England along with Jane Ross who was running the line. Chloe Arthur, outstanding for Bristol City on so many occasions, also added an extra quality to the midfield.
England will have talked about the importance of a quick start to settle themselves into the game and they began with a high intensity. Jodie Taylor was a clear target early on and she opened the scoring with 11 minutes on the clock. A dummy from Fran Kirby distracted the Scottish defence and allowed Taylor to break through and score low past Gemma Fay.
Scotland tried to respond and caused a little trouble for the Lionesses from set pieces but England stayed mostly in control. Taylor scored her second with half an hour played after latching onto a scramble from a Jordan Nobbs free kick. And they went in at the break 3-0 up after Ellen White reacted quickest when Scott’s long-distance effort rebounded off the woodwork.
The Lionesses continued where they left off in the second half. Taylor claimed the match-ball with the goal of the game before Nobbs and substitute Toni Duggan scored late on.
It was a comprehensive win for England and the best performance we have seen from them so far this year. Spain will provide a stern test for them on Sunday but they will go into that game brimming with confidence. On the other hand, it is hard not to feel for Scotland. They set out to play their football but were undone by a strong England performance. They will need to pick themselves up quickly and recover for their next game against Portugal.
Player of the Game
Jodie Taylor understandably gets all the plaudits for a phenomenal performance up front. She adds something different to the England attack running off defenders. Coming into this tournament fit and in fine form is a massive positive for the Lionesses.
Special mention though has to go to Millie Bright. Since she made her debut last year, she has fit into the side seamlessly. Her performance in centre defence was so assured, you would have thought she had been part of the setup for years.
Goal of the Game
Jodie Taylor‘s third goal was the strike of the game for us. Worked from the back, White got a good head onto a Steph Houghton long-ball to knock it into the path of Taylor. With a deft first-time touch, the England striker lifted past Fay in the Scotland goal.
— Channel 4 (@Channel4) July 19, 2017
Save of the Game
Gemma Fay won’t look back on this game with particular fondness but her smart save in the 70th minute most certainly kept the scoreline lower. A swift attack from England saw Duggan break through the Scottish defence. She looked odds on to score until Fay, diving low, got a vital touch to deflect the effort wide.