Match Report

WWC Qualifying Game: Lionesses 1-0 Austria

England’s return to the Stadium of Light ends in victory as the Lionesses remain unbeaten in their World Cup Qualifying games.

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via Lionesses Twitter

28 November 2021

It was a special occasion for forward Ellen White, who earned her 100th cap against Austria, the team she made her debut against in 2010. White was to be England’s sole goalscorer on what was a bitterly cold and treacherous afternoon in Sunderland.

Prior to the match, England manager, Sarina Wiegman, had already identified Austria as the Lionesses most difficult opponents of the qualifying group, and given the concluding scoreline and the overall performances from both sides, she was wise to do so.

England opted for a 4-3-3 formation, reverting back from their previous fixture against Latvia, in which they lined-up with an attackingly emphasised back three. Demi Stokes and Rachel Daly returned to the starting line-up, replacing Beth England and, a now injured, Leah Williamson. Millie Bright took on captain duties in the absence of Williamson and usual skipper, Steph Houghton.

The opening moments warned England of a more testing fixture than those of late when Austria pressed almost immediately, earning themselves a corner within the first minute. However, England were not to fall victim and roused a positively dominant first half.

A triangle formed of Rachel Daly, Fran Kirby and Beth Mead down the right-hand side caused problems for Austria as the three worked in conjunction to feed balls through on goal. This was further bolstered by the deliveries of Bright and Keira Walsh who kickstarted attacks from deeper positions.

It was this link-up that provided England’s first clear cut chance of the match, after several looming threats had failed to hit the mark. Bright slotted a well-placed ball to a front-footed Kirby who collected and released to an in-turn running Mead. Mead squared it across the box to White, who had just crept offside.

Seven minutes later, a similar play was made as Bright supplied Kirby in the central channel. Kirby pitched forward and teed up a beautiful through ball to meet White’s run. This time White was not able to connect.
Centre-back Bright got herself into a prime position and unleashed a lethal long range shot just minutes later. Austria goalkeeper, Manuela Zinsberger looked comfortable to let Bright’s shot fly just wide, however it was not a bad effort at all from the stand-in skipper.

The deadlock was eventually broken 40 minutes in after Lauren Hemp’s delivery from the left pinballed around in the box before finding the back of the net. Mead overran the placement of Hemp’s ball, but Kirby was there to retrieve and keep the attack alive. Kirby struck the ball well but her effort was blocked bravely by the head of an opponent. Kirby was able to dink the second ball over to White at the far post, who managed to get stretch just enough to force the ball past Zinsberger.

England could have then had a second just before the break when Walsh’s central ball met a well-positioned Kirby. Kirby got the shot away cleanly enough, but Zinsberger pulled off a might fingertip save to deny the Chelsea star.

Austria began the second half as they had the first, strongly. The visitors provided goalkeeper Mary Earps with her first action of the game when Barbara Dunst took a punt from range. Two minutes later, Earps was up again as Austria came thundering on the counter in a 3v2 against Daly and Bright. Maria Plattner hit her shot as she inched past Daly, Earps reacted quickly and got a big hand on the strike. With gaps beginning to open up and Austria beginning to exploit space, England were fortunate on this occasion.

Just before the hour mark, England had a rightful penalty shout when Mead was quite blatantly pulled down in the area. The referee denied England protests, and the visitors, as the host were minutes before, were fortunate.

Austria keeper, Zinsberger, who like her defensive compatriots in front, took another important action at 65 minutes when she tipped out clubmate Mead’s powerful shot from the right.

England’s next and final chance of the game came from Daly with just five minutes to go. The provisional fullback collected the ball a few yards outside of the box and saw the space open in front of her. Daly shifted her herself to get enough weight behind her shot and sent in a strong ground sweeping strike. Once again, Zinsberger managed to force the effort wide.

In relation to England’s previous performances, this was not the most engaging. However, it will serve as the most critical in relation to picking out areas to adjust and improve upon. England succeeded in feeding the channels of the pitch and in being positive in possession. They fell short was in connecting with those final balls, overplaying the attack at times, and in allowing space to be exploited at the back.

Sarina Wiegman was pleased with her side’s performance in her post-match talk, noting the performances of Ellen White, Fran Kirby, Beth Mead and Mary Earps in particular.

Wiegman expressed that she would have liked to have seen her team play “tighter on the ball” and that they will need to improve upon their opening minutes of play going forward.

The Lionesses will face Latvia on Tuesday at 7:30pm at Doncaster’s Keepmoat Stadium.

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England: Earps (GK), Daly, Bright (C), Greenwood, Stokes (90+1’), Walsh, Toone (62’), Kirby, Mead, White, Hemp

Substitutes: MacIver (GK), Hampton (GK), Charles, Carter (90+1’), Wubben-Moy, Stanway (62’), Nobbs, Zelem, Scott, England, Parris, Russo

Goals: White (40’)

Austria: Zinsberger (GK),Naschenweng (60’), Plattner (89’), Wenninger (C), Dunst, Zadrazil, Weinrother, Kirchberger, Billa (86’), Puntigam, Hansaw

Substitutes: El Sharif, Pal, Horvat, Fuchs, Schiechtl, Triendl, Georgieva, Höbinger (89’), Eder, Wienerroither (60’), Schasching, Enzinger (86’)