England Lionesses hammer Austria in front of just 949 fans

Rachel Daly and Grace Clinton of England celebrate victory during the Women's international friendly match between England and Austria at Estadio Nuevo Mirador Algeciras, Spain on February 23, 2024 in Algeciras, Spain
Grace Clinton (R) starred on her debut for England - Getty Images/Naomi Baker

England 7 Austria 2

Sarina Wiegman hailed debutant Grace Clinton as a “natural” after the Tottenham Hotspur midfielder performed a starring role to help a rather experimental England side comprehensively demolish Austria in a very poorly-attended friendly in southern Spain.

Clinton, 20, headed home the Lionesses’ second goal, having earlier struck an eye-catching effort against the post, and excelled in midfield with an exuberant performance that saw her take full advantage of her opportunity.

Wiegman was delighted with the way the youngster handled her first senior international appearance, saying: “She plays like a natural. She wants to have the ball. She picks up the things we talk about very quickly.

“It was a new role for her so we [worked on] some individual things and some tactics and you could tell she just totally understands and she takes things on board and just goes out there and plays.”

England’s captain on the night, Alex Greenwood, chose Clinton for praise, saying: “We’re really proud of Grace, taking her opportunity. It was nice to have her on the scoresheet and there were so many positives to take from this evening. This week we’ve had the Under-23s with us [in the training camp] and for them to see that happen tonight will be a bit of motivation for them to know they’ll have that chance in the future.”

Wiegman experimented on Friday and Clinton, who has four goals and two assists in 13 league appearances this term, certainly impressed. What was distinctly unimpressive, though, was the turnout. It’s understood 949 tickets were sold for this fixture at Estadio Nuevo Mirador, a municipal stadium in Algeciras in southern Spain which offers a vantage point of the Rock of Gibraltar in the distance across the bay. The neutral venue offered England a chance to enjoy a warm-weather training camp in Marbella this week but the location, announced only on 31 January, was not exactly one chosen with fans’ needs at the forefront.

Those who did turn up were rewarded with a nine-goal frenzy. Alessia Russo opened the scoring from the night’s first chance, netting on the rebound from a Beth Mead effort. Their second goal highlighted the work that has been done on the training ground at La Quinta Football Center near Marbella, as their passing move began under pressure in their own six-yard both but they played their way out from the back through centre-back Greenwood and goalkeeper Hannah Hampton and eventually worked the ball all the way up the other end of the pitch where Clinton headed in.

Eintracht Frankfurt defender Virginia Kirchberger headed in from a corner for Austria but Mead would quickly restore the two-goal advantage with a well-placed left-footed finish. In the second half, Russo calmly slotted in her second and substitute Jess Carter flicked in at the far post from a corner to make it 5-1.

Alessia Russo of England scores her team's fourth goal during the Women's international friendly match between England and Austria at Estadio Nuevo Mirador Algeciras, Spain on February 23, 2024 in Algeciras, Spain
Alessia Russo netted twice as England hammered Austria - Getty Images/Fran Santiago

Kirchberger headed in again for Austria with two minutes remaining, but Mead almost immediately restored the four-goal margin as she tucked home the rebound after Lauren James hit the post, before Daly clinically lashed home England’s seventh in stoppage time. The Lionesses are back in action on Tuesday against Italy.

Match details

England (4-3-3): Hampton 6; Le Tissier 7, Morgan 6, Greenwood 7 (Wubben-Moy 7, 45), Charles 6 (Carter 7, 62); Stanway 8 (Walsh 7, 78), Clinton 8 (Park 6, 62), Toone 7; Mead 8, Russo 8 (Daly 7, 62), Hemp 8 (James 76, 45)
Subs not used: Keating (gk), Bronze, Earps (gk), Turner, Beever-Jones
Yellow cards: None
Austria (4-4-2): Zinsberger 4; Schiechtl 5 (Hanshaw 6, 63), Kirchberger 7, Georgieva 5, Naschenweng 5; Purtscheller 6, Zadrazil 6, Puntigam 5 (Geiersinger 6, 63), Dunst 6; Campbell 5 (Billa 6, 77), Hobinger 5 (Schashing 6, 77)
Subs not used: D’Angelo, Klein, Pinther, Kresche (gk), Kolb, Pal (gk)
Yellow cards: Kirchberger
Referee: Ainara Andrea Acevedo Dudley (Spain)
Attendance: 949 tickets sold