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England 3 Finland 1
England posted a comfortable 3-1 win over Finland in their opening match of the Cyprus Cup in Larnaca.
Arsenal striker Lianne Sanderson headed the Three Lions into the lead midway through the first half. Eniola Aluko doubled the lead on 66 minutes, prodding home Jess Clarke's pull back for an 18th goal in 26 internationals. Clarke added a third on 83 minutes, smashing home a loose ball from ten yards out after Finland failed to clear Alex Scott's cross.
The only downside for England was a late red card for Gemma Bonner, who was dismissed for denying Annika Kukkonen a clear goalscoring opportunity. Finland captain Maija Saari converted the spot kick in the final minute of the game, but it was mere consolation.
England are competing in this friendly tournament for the sixth year in succession, and this season's competition takes on added significance with the World Cup just three months away. They will doubtless face stiffer tests in Canada than Finland offered here, but Mark Sampson's side can be pleased with the manner of their victory.
Sampson made eight changes to the team that lost 1-0 to USA at MK Dons last month, with only defensive duo Laura Bassett and Demi Stokes and midfielder Jo Potter keeping their places.
England despatched the Scandinavians 3-0 at last season's Cyprus Cup, and it did not take them long to gain control this year. Two of the new players combined to create the first chance of the match, with Jade Moore's right sided cross headed over the top by a stooping Aluko.
Fara Williams, captain for the day, and Stokes each tried their luck before Sanderson fired a drive over the bar from the edge of the box as England looked to mark a bright opening period with a goal.
That goal came in the 21st minute. Notts County's new left back Alex Greenwood sent over a delicious deep cross and Sanderson peeled off her marker to nod home at the far post.
The livewire Aluko came close to doubling the advantage just seconds after the restart. England robbed Finland of possession straight from kick off and the Chelsea striker tried to chip Finnish keeper Minna Meriluoto, who recovered well to turn the ball behind for a corner.
Andree Jeglertz's side had offered little in the way of an attacking threat, but Natalia Kuikka was left to rue a presentable chance that fell her way just before the hour mark, as she hit Emma Koivisto's centre straight at Carly Telford in the England goal. Williams responded immediately, sending a 25-yard piledriver just inches over the top before Aluko doubled England's lead.
Clarke, who impressed wide on the left, pulled the ball back from the by line and Aluko was on hand to convert from ten yards.
Substitute Scott, on for Bassett, cracked an angled effort over the top from outside the box, and Clarke got on the scoresheet with seven minutes remaining by clinically despatching a shot into the roof of the net.
Bonner was sent off for tripping Kukkonen inside the area and Saari reduced arrears from the spot, but the result was never in doubt.
England have three more matches in Cyprus as their preparations for this summer's World Cup really start to heat up. Their second group match is against Australia on Friday.
England: Carly Telford, Demi Stokes, Alex Greenwood, Jo Potter, Gemma Bonner, Laura Bassett (sub Alex Scott 62mins), Jade Moore, Fara Williams, Eniola Aluko, Lianne Sanderson, Jess Clarke.
Finland: Minna Meriluoto, Maija Saari, Tuija Hyyrynen (sub Sanni Franssi 80mins), Emma Koivisto, Katri Nokso-Koivisto (sub Annika Kukkonen 62mins), Juliette Kemppi, Emmi Alanen (sub Linda Ruutu 62mins), Nora Heroum, Natalia Kuikka (sub Katarina Naumanen 80mins), Anna Westerlund, Adelina Engman.
(Report by www.TheFA.com)
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