Beth Mead expressed her disappointment at not securing a place at the Olympics last summer by opening a Euro account on England soil in a 1-0 win over Austria in front of a record crowd at Old Trafford.
Meade, who said her scoring form for club and country was spurred by frustration at being left out of the GP squad in Tokyo, is the Lionesses’ top scorer under her new manager Sarina Wijmann, who was recruited from the tournament-holders Netherlands.
In front of 68,871 fans, England had to work hard against an organized and dangerous Austrian team that reached the semi-finals of Euro 2017, but Mead made the difference, throwing the ball over the line in style to give England the top spot. win over. Half lead.
Perhaps it was the pressure of the occasion or the sentiment, but England started with the back foot and Austria, with no 10 Laura Versinger at the center of the match, kept the hosts in their own half for most of the first 10 minutes.
Wigman’s decision to sign Manchester City centre-back Alex Greenwood was put to the test and captain Leah Williamson was put to the test alongside Millie Bright on the spot. She held out while the lionesses calmed down.
It was the dynamic attacking midfield duo of Georgia Stanway and Fran Kirby that would provide the impetus for England.
They had a goal in the 17th minute to calm nerves and relieve pressure on the defense line, and Kirby, who was desperate to win the championship after missing the end of the domestic season with a serious fatigue problem, showed his value in the England campaign.
The ball slid over Meade’s pipe, which she shot down before hoisting it over Arsenal team-mate Manuela Zinsberger and over the line before Karina Weininger shot it away. It was time for a VAR check for the first time in the Women’s Championship, but a review of goal-line technology allowed it.
Austria may have been hoping to get out of the blocks and shock England with an early goal, but with Plan A going out the window, it was time for the more popular and best known defensive plan.
Austria, back in their own half, was fortunate not to be two or three behind in the first half. Another brilliant shot from Chelsea’s Kirby found winger Lauren Hemp, who was narrowly missed by England’s record scorer Ellen White. In the final action of the half, Kirby teamed up again with Hemp and sliced the ball to the Manchester City player who turned to her left to allow the black-clad defenders to recover.
In England’s pre-tournament friendly match against the Netherlands, the Lionesses struggled to get back on their feet and fell back for the first time under Weigman before scoring before the break. Keira Walsh said the coach told them in the first half, “You’re all great players, just relax.” Weigmann’s words calmed the team, and with new legs on the field, they scored four goals in the second half to crush the Dutch.
With similar words perhaps ringing in their ears, England looked much safer under the floodlights than Old Trafford in the second half. Just an hour later, Manchester United duo Alicia Russo and Ella Tone entered with City winger Chloe Kelly in place of White, Kirby and Meade. Perhaps England’s greatest weapon in this competition is the quality of the players available on the bench.
With high stakes and an opponent accustomed to not having the ball, England struggled to get past it. A superb run from Kelly, who was crushed from the right before shooting wide under pressure, may be one of the best chances of the inning.
The more the hosts did not extend their lead, the more confident the Austrians were and with 12 minutes to go, Barbara Dunst made her way past Lucy Bronze before making a beautiful save from Marie Erbs, who fired the ball into sight.
In the end, Med’s punch was enough. But in the next position is a Norwegian side led by Ada Hegerberg, the Champions League top scorer, who will put England’s defense to the ultimate test to advance to the knockout stages.