England 5-1 Italy: Dominant England run rampant in Algeciras

England ended their Marbella training camp with a friendly against Italy, coming off the back of an impressive 7-2 win over Austria on Friday night, in which Sarina Wiegman swayed from her typical starting eleven. This theme continued into tonight’s fixture, as Lotte Wubben-Moy came into the side for her first England start since June 2022, while the on-form Grace Clinton kept her place in the midfield.

After their 0-0 draw against Ireland on Friday, Italy fielded a much stronger side, with Sofia Cantore and Michela Cambiaghi coming back in to lead the line.

ENG: Earps; Charles, Greenwood, Wubben-Moy, Bronze; Clinton, Walsh, Stanway; Hemp, Russo, Kelly

ITA: Giuliani; Linari, Lenzini, di Guglielmo; Boattin, Catena, Galli, Caruso, Bergamaschi; Cambiaghi, Cantore

The first half was dominated by England, as they managed to win six corners and score from three of them – the first of which came after only 62 seconds as the returning Lotte Wubben-Moy made her mark on the side, putting England ahead with a clinical header from a drilled Alex Greenwood corner.

She almost made it two soon after, as another header – this time from a deep Chloe Kelly corner – was saved well down low by Giuliani. 

It was clear that England had identified that Italy would struggle aerially as lots of their play focused on spreading the Italy defence, making the most of Bronze, Kelly, and Greenwood’s delivery into the box, both from open play and set pieces.

It didn’t take long for their second as the endless barrage of corners eventually led to an admittedly scrappy goal from Lauren Hemp, as Giuliani punched Greenwood’s corner straight to her feet. 

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Hemp then got her second, and England’s third, in the 33rd minute as the Lionesses completed their hat-trick of corners; this time a more orthodox finish as Hemp found space well as Lucy Bronze kept the ball alive and Stanway looped in a ball that was headed well into the top right corner. 

Italy’s unorganised defence let them down in the first half, but it wasn’t all bad for the Azzurre. Juventus winger Sofia Cantore was causing Greenwood problems all half with her explosive pace and dribbling, and she got the assist for Italy’s late goal just before the half-time whistle, though all the credit must go to goal scorer Michela Cambiaghi. She stayed alert and pressed aggressively to win the ball in the final third, completing the move with a composed finish, leaving it 3-1 at the break.

Despite the late first-half blow, England didn’t seem fazed as they came out for the second half as they continued to attack with confidence and commit players forward. Italy looked to capitalise on this with some quick transitions, however they were continuously stifled by wayward passing. 

Italy finally managed to get their first extended period of control during a series of well-struck corners that they were unable to get on the end of, but their heightened aggression and ambition in the attack were causing England problems. 

This period of control was ended at the hands of substitute Lauren James, who after having a powerful strike saved well, caused problems at the back for Italy as her chipped ball across the box was volleyed beautifully into the top corner by another substitute, Ella Toone.

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From then on, the result was in no doubt, with this half featuring a hat-trick of substitute goals as Rachel Daly pounced on a poor back pass from Agnese Bonfantini and was left with an easy finish after Giuliani rushed out and was left stranded, leaving England as 5-1 winners. 

Italy will be frustrated with such a decisive loss, despite coming up against a strong England side they will be hoping they don’t carry this form into the first round of European Championship qualifiers. For England, this international break couldn’t have gone any better for Wiegman, who has been able to integrate various fringe players into the squad away from the pressure of tournaments and qualifiers, and after winning their two fixtures 12-3 on aggregate, she will no doubt look at this refresh of her squad as a huge success.