Lucy and the Lionesses get off to a winning start
England Women kicked-off their Women’s World Cup campaign with a 2-1 win over Scotland – thanks to impressive performances from a number of their North East contingent.
Goals from Nikita Parris and Ellen White saw the Lionesses climb to the top of Group D as they started life in France with a gutsy performance over the Auld Enemy.
Phil Neville’s squad contains no fewer than seven players with links to the North East and four of that contingent – Lucy Bronze, Steph Houghton, Jill Scott and Beth Mead – started the opening game.
Former Sunderland stopper Carly Telford, former Alnwick student Lucy Staniforth and South Shields-born Demi Stokes were all unused substitutes – with the latter nursing a minor injury.
And the quartet who did feature were in the thick of it from the start, in a frenetic and highly-charged clash in the Stade de Nice.
In front of a vocal crowd of over 13,000, England took the lead in controversial circumstances on 17 minutes.
They were awarded a penalty following a VAR ruling for hand ball, and Parris fired them in front from the spot.
The lead was doubled before half-time when White reacted quickest to fire home after Kirby had battled to win back possession on the edge of the area.
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Mead thought she had added a third following the interval but saw her strike ruled-out after White had narrowly strayed into an offside position.
That spurred Scotland into action, and Shelley Kerr’s side were handed hope when Claire Emslie’s strike deflected off substitute Abbie McManus and found a way past Karen Bardsley – after the forward seized on a loose pass from Houghton.
Manager Neville, however, has demanded improvement ahead of England’s remaining two group stage games.
“I was pleased with the result,” he admitted.
“The first game is always the most difficult one, but we set certain standards. The players know we need to keep hitting them and if we don’t, we get second half performances like that.
“We need to play like we did in the first half. We need to be relentless as we want to be here for the next 37 days.”
England face Argentina in their next group stage game on Friday, June 14 (the game kicks-off at 8pm).