Keira Walsh: ‘You can see the calmness’ as Leah Williamson makes first England start since ACL injury

England picked up their first win of their EURO2025 qualification campaign in Dublin on Tuesday, defeating the Republic of Ireland thanks to goals from Lauren James and an Alex Greenwood penalty. England’s Player of the Match, Keira Walsh, addressed the media post-match, expressing that the Lionesses were ‘really happy with the result.’

The Barcelona midfielder also added that she was pleased with her own performance, after ‘Sarina [Wiegman] mentioned she wasn’t sure how they were going to play’ ahead of the match. ‘I came out and kind of saw them sitting back, [so] I was really happy. I think it allows me to express the way I want to play and find the girls in the pockets. I think [Ella] Toone and Jess [Park] pick up some really good positions, so to find them, and that’s where they are really dangerous.I think we’re really happy with the first half in particular.’

Leah Williamson returned to the starting lineup for the first time in more than a year on Tuesday, after an ACL injury – and then a hamstring aggravation – kept her sidelined throughout the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, inaugural UEFA Women’s Nations League and February friendlies.

Embed from Getty Images

‘I think obviously having Leah [Williamson] back tonight was massive for us,’ said Walsh. ‘You can see the calmness she brings, and the leadership role that she has for us is massive. It’s obviously been a tough journey for her, but these are the moments that she’s been working hard for and I think she put in an unbelievable performance.’

‘She’s been out for so long, it’s not been an easy team to play against, they’re very physical so I think you can see the quality she has. I think personally, really happy to have her back, and professionally.’

Reflecting on the match and the differences compared to Friday’s draw with Sweden, Walsh indicated that the clash ‘was a game of two halves. Tactically, I think it was very difficult against Sweden – I think it was a very tactical game. I think tonight it was a lot more physical, a lot more intense. The way they pressed allowed us to play a bit quicker and speed the game up.’

‘Against Sweden we sat in, and sometimes it’s a bit more difficult to speed up in those areas. So especially the first half, we’re really happy with that. Second half, you know that they’re a really good team and they are really on the front foot, so I think that’s where we need to use the spaces in behind a bit more, and really use those channels and stretch them. [We are] really really happy with the three points.’