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England too strong for Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland 0

England 5 (Hemp 26,60, Toone 52, Stanway  70,79)

att: 15,348; at Windsor Park

Group leaders England swept Northern Ireland aside in a FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 qualifier at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park.

Two goals apiece from Lauren Hemp and Georgia Stanway, plus another from Ella Toone, saw Sarina Wiegman’s team seal a comfortable 5-0 victory in front of a record crowd of 15,348.

The result, coupled with Austria’s demolition of Latvia, means that England are on the brink of qualification whilst Northern Ireland’s very slim chance of reaching a World Cup play-off has now gone.

The Lionesses pushed forward from the beginning, with the lively Hemp in particular looking to get forward at every opportunity. The first chance of the game fell to prolific England striker Ellen White, however her header went well wide of the target.

In the tenth minute, defender Sarah McFadden cleared the ball when a low shot from Beth Mead look destined for the back of the net. Toone scooped a shot wide of the target before McFadden produced a superb block to keep out White. Next to try her luck for the visitors was Lucy Bronze, whose rasping shot from an angle went inches past the post.

England had a goal ruled out shortly after, Northern Ireland keeper Jackie Burns pushed out a stinging shot from Mead and the loose ball was tucked in by White, however she was deemed to be offside. Toone’s shot from distance was easily gathered by Burns as England continued to pile on the pressure.

England opened the scoring on 26 minutes. Hemp played a one-two with Toone and cleverly dinked the ball over Burns from eight yards. It was a sweet finish.

Julie Nelson made a couple of important interceptions as the wave of white shirts continued to flow forward and then her defensive partner McFadden made another important block to keep out White. At the other end, a long ball over the top had Lauren Wade racing towards goal, however England captain Leah Williamson snuffed out the danger, heading the ball into the arms of keeper Mary Earps.

Hemp headed over the top as England stayed on the front foot and as half time approached, White glanced two headers wide of the target.

The second half began as the first ended, with England on the attack. White fired a low shot towards goal which was gathered in by Burns. England doubled their lead on 51 minutes. Bronze used all her power and strength to force her way past a couple of Northern Ireland defenders and play the ball across the face of goal where Toone tucked it away.

Moments later, Northern Ireland had their first real chance. Joely Andrews broke forward and fed Wade, whose low shot was pushed away by Earps. Down the other end, Burns did well to dive full length to push out a cross-cum-shot from Hemp.

However, Hemp grabbed her second of the night in the 60th minute when a pass from Williamson deflected off Nelson into her path. The winger rounded Burns and stroked the ball into the net.

England grabbed goal number four in the 70th minute. This time Toone turned provider as she fed Stanway and she coolly stabbed the ball past Burns. Hemp slipped in substitute Beth England but Burns saved well at her feet before Stanway grabbed her second on 79 minutes, clipping the ball home.

As the clock wound down, Hemp was still full of energy and Burns had to smother a low drive from her, while Toone’s effort from distance was clasped by the Northern Ireland keeper and Millie Bright clipped the top of the bar with a rasping shot.

Northern Ireland: Jackie Burns, Abbie Magee (sub Caragh Hamilton 82mins), Demi Vance, Sarah McFadden, Julie Nelson, Kelsie Burrows (sub Rebecca McKenna 75mins), Joely Andrews (sub Nadene Caldwell 75mins), Marissa Callaghan, Rachel Furness (sub Chloe McCarron 61mins), Simone Magill, Lauren Wade (sub Kirsty McGuinness 61mins). Subs not used:Becky Flaherty, Rebecca Holloway, Toni Finnegan, Megan Bell, Emily Wilson, Kerry Beattie.

England: Mary Earps, Lucy Bronze, Jessica Carter (sub Rachel Daly 66mins), Keira Walsh, Leah Williamson, Millie Bright, Beth Mead (sub Nikita Parris 71mins), Georgia Stanway (sub Jordan Nobbs 87mins), Ellen White (sub Beth England 65mins), Ella Toone, Lauren Hemp. Subs not used: Hannah Hampton, Ellie Roebuck, Katie Zelem, Gabrielle George, Demi Stokes, Alessia Russo, Niamh Charles.