England U19s opened their European Elite Round qualifying campaign with a comfortable 7-0 win over Turkey.
A chilly St. George’s Park set the scene as Rehanne Skinner’s Lionesses took to the field. Tough warm-up camps in Portugal and Spain earlier this year had provided the preparation for this group of players as they look to top Group 6 and qualify for the Euros to be held in Scotland later this summer.
Manchester City’s Esme Morgan captained a starting XI that was full of attacking potential. Jodie Hutton made her debut for the U19s, having moved up an age group. Alongside her were Ebony Salmon, Lucy Fitzgerald, Lauren James and Emily Syme posing a strong challenge for the Turkish defence.
England controlled the play from the whistle, and it wasn’t long before they were creating chances, using their pace down both wings to their advantage. The first real chance fell to Hutton in the centre of the box, but she turned her shot wide under pressure from the Turkish keeper, Bedriye Cam.
The opening goal finally game in the 25th minute. Syme was having an influential game in the middle of the park and found Salmon in the box. The Sheffield United striker rarely misses from that range and drove a fine strike home.
The best passage of play from Turkey followed the goal as they immediately looked to hit back. And they came very close! A break down the left saw Birgül Sadikoglu meet a low cross but she turned her shot millimetres wide of the near post.
This woke England up and they began to dominate once more. The pressure told and three goals in nine minutes put the hosts comfortably ahead. Syme turned provider once again as she laid the ball across to Fitzgerald. The Millwall attacker took a touch and curled her shot over the on-rushing keeper. She scored her second of the game minutes later. Turkey initially defended a corner efficiently, but the return ball dropped for Fitzgerald eight yards from goal and she made no mistake with the finish.
A burst of speed down the right saw Salmon break into the area to score her second of the afternoon before Syme got in on the act turning Salmon’s low cross into the back of the net. The Young Lionesses went in 5-0 up at half-time in control of proceedings.
The beginning of the second period saw a wave of changes. Amelia Hazard, Georgia Eaton-Collins and Naomi Hartley all entered the field, shortly followed by Ella Rutherford and Lauren Hemp, to get some minutes under their belts.
It was a pretty quiet period of play until England extended their advantage in the 70th minute. After Grace Neville was tripped up just outside the box, a free kick was worked down the left to James. Her cut back in the box was perfect for Syme and the Yeovil player sent it home, capping off a fine performance with a brace.
They weren’t done yet and James almost got her name on the scoresheet, rattling the crossbar with a curling effort from distance. The final goal came with nine minutes on the clock. Syme added another assist, sending through a low pass into Hemp. She coolly rounded the keeper and fired home.
We caught up with Esme Morgan and Aimee Palmer after the game:
How do you sum up that performance?
EM: Is was good. I think we played really well in spells. There are things that we can improve on in terms of being a bit more clinical and maybe even retaining the ball a bit better and creating a few more chances. But overall it was really positive and to get 7 goals going into the next couple of games is a really good boost for us
You have played in Portugal and La Manga earlier this year. How did those camps prepare you coming into this tournament?
AP: They were really important to find out who we are as a team and how to play with each other. I think they have been really good building blocks to come into these games. We tried different formations, so we’ve found out how we want to play. Today has shown that. We are happy with the result, but we know that there are things that we need to work on for the next two games.
You face Sweden on Saturday in your second game. What do you expect to face from them?
EM: I think they’ll be organised and probably very physical. They had some good results in La Manga in the same tournament we were at. They’ll be strong, they’ll definitely have a threat and will quite difficult to break down. We’ll have to be good in possession to get a result.