England ease past Belgium with dominant second-half display in Women's Euros warm-up

·19-min read
Chloe Kelly of England celebrates with her team mates after scoring a goal - GETTY IMAGES
Chloe Kelly of England celebrates with her team mates after scoring a goal - GETTY IMAGES
  • England 3 Belgium 0

This will all be quickly forgotten when all that matters is how England fare at the European Championships later this summer but if they do go on to do something special it all started with a dominant victory over Belgium tainted by an alarming number of missed chances.

With the exception of a couple of positions, this was pretty much England’s first choice starting XI.  They looked good. Really good at times.

Only some wayward and occasionally really poor finishing prevented this from being a far more eye-catching win over a Belgium team that has also qualified for the Euros next month.

To see England outplay them so comprehensively, with an assuredness in possession that is so often lacking from our national teams, was hugely encouraging. So too were the number of times they carved the defence open.

England dominated possession, passing well. The tempo could have been a little quicker, the final pass sharper, but they are building towards the tournament not playing it yet.

Belgium struggled to get the ball and were extremely fortunate not to concede at least once in the first half. England could have two or three before the break.

Ellen White should have scored from a Beth Mead cross and definitely should have done it with only the goalkeeper to beat inside the six yard box.

Lauren Hemp should have shot with her right foot rather than her left at the end of a zig zagging run and Georgia Stanway had done all the hard work to get into the area, only to slice a shot horribly wide. Mead did the same, a delightful flick creating the chance, only to lean back and shoot wildly wide.

The missed chances were a concern, but at least they were creating so many of them. England were a threat down both  flanks too.

While much is expected from Hemp on the left, the WSL young player of year for a fourth successive year, Mead’s impact here was arguably even greater. The former Sunderland player has just enjoyed her best season for Arsenal, was probably England’ standout player in the first half before Chloe Kelly replaced her at half time and also impressed.

Three changes at half time by manager Sarina Wiegman was a typical friendly move and there were another two on the hour mark, but finally England’s dominance was belatedly turned into a goal thanks to Kelly’s deflected shot, a lovely piece of footwork and skill taking her past the full back.

It was England’s 18th shot of the game but only their 7th on target. They scored with their 20th too, when another sub, Rachel Daly volleyed home after Belgium had struggled to clear a corner.

The victory was finished off by skipper Leah Williamson, via the underside of the crossbar and the goalkeeper’s back, after another addition from the bench, Nikita Parris, had seen a header cleared off the line.

Harder tests are ahead, not least reigning European champions, Netherlands at Elland Road next week, but this was the perfect start to the Lionesses’ Euros preparations.

Match details

England (4-2-3-1): Earps 6; Bronze 7, Bright 6, Wubben-Moy 6 (Greenwood 46), Stokes 6 (Daly 46); Walsh 7, Williamson 7; Mead 7 (Kelly 46), Stanway 8 (Kirby 61), Hemp 8 (Parris ; White 5 (England 61)
Subs not used: Hampton, Roebuck, Toone, Scott, Russo, Carter
Booked: Bronze

Belgium (4-3-3): Evrard 7; Deloose 6, Kees 5 (Tison 46), De Neve 5 (Tysiak 46), Philtjens 5 (Missipo 46); Biesmans 6, Minnaert 5, De Caigny 6; Wijnants 5, Wullaert 5, Delacauw 6 (Dhont 61).
Subs not used: Lichtfus, Lemey, Vangheluwe,, Onzia, Vanmechelen, , Eurlings, Van Kerkhoven, Janssens.

Referee: Sara Persson (Sweden)

Attendance: 9,598

09:59 PM

That's all from us..

Luke Edwards' report is above.

09:54 PM

92 mins FULL TIME England 3-0 Belgium

England continue their unbeaten streak under Sarina Wiegman. They've done what Gareth Southgate's men couldn't do at Molineux two nights ago and earned a comprehensive win. In the end goals from Chloe Kelly, Rachel Daly before an own goal from Belgium keeper Evrard steered England to victory.

09:51 PM

91 mins England 3-0 Belgium

It looks like England are going to continue their fine defensive record under Wiegman with another clean sheet (a reminder they've only conceded two goals in her 12 matches in charge).

Three minutes of extra time added on.

09:49 PM

89 mins England 3-0 Belgium

It's been a dominant second-half performance from England but they will have to be slicker in their second Euros warm-up against the Netherlands.

09:43 PM

83 mins England 3-0 Belgium

It's another goal for the Lionesses! It looks like Williamson has capped off a solid individual performance but it is going to go down as an Evrard on goal...

09:39 PM

79 mins England 2-0 Belgium

Hemp is still beavering away down her flank - this time she fires it to Beth England again and it's another header from the Chelsea forward, but there isn't enough power behind it and Evrard gathers.

That's the Manchester City's last contribution of the night. She makes way for Nikita Parris.

09:34 PM

75 mins England 2-0 Belgium

It's all England at the moment, that second goal has sucked the life out of Belgium. Williamson tees up a shot at goal - she's agonisingly close - but it floats wide. The Lionesses captain deserves a goal, her contribution in this game has been nothing short of immense.

09:32 PM

70 mins England 2-0 Belgium

It's been a tacticalmasterclass from Sarina Wiegman in this half, with both Kelly and Daly on the scoresheet. Alex Greenwood has also been sensational, she hasn't stopped pinging perfect passes since she's come on. Talk about impact players.

Hemp receives the ball on the left, pivots, and crosses into the box. Beth England, who has replaced White, gets down low and meets the cross with her head but it is off-target. Could she have backed herself with a volley there?

09:27 PM

66 mins A SECOND GOAL FOR ENGLAND!

Rachel Daly doubles England's advantage within minutes after England continue to impress and win a corner. Belgium fail to clear their lines and the ball ping-pongs dangerously around the box, before Daly catches the ball with a sweet strike into the top corner.  Surely the players can relax into the last quarter of the game now.

09:22 PM

61 mins GOAL FOR ENGLAND!

Bronze is on the ball high and wide, she rolls the ball onto Kelly in front of her down the right, and the Man City forward cuts inside her marker and rattles off a shot which takes a big deflection, catches out Evrard, and ends up in the bottom corner. England finally break the deadlock!

09:20 PM

60 mins England 0-0 Belgium

Chelsea duo Beth England and Fran Kirby on. White and Stanway off. Looks like we could see Kirby, who makes her first England start since February after battling with fatigue, in that 10 role.

Belgium also make a double change.

09:17 PM

59 mins England 0-0 Belgium

Hemp appeals for a penalty.. but again the referee shakes her head. England regain possession and who else is on the ball but.. Hemp again. She wrestles her way through two defenders and appears to be clipped right on the edge of the area, but her pleas are ignored.

09:16 PM

57 mins England 0-0 Belgium

SHOT FROM KEIRA WALSH.. who is teed up by Stanway.. but her effort is straight at Evrard.

Meanwhile, Fran Kirby is warming up on the sidelines. The Chelsea striker hasn't featured for her country since February this year and it would be a huge bonus if she can get some minutes tonight.

Stokes dribbles forward, cuts inside and dinks the ball into the box, the danger is sniffed out but the ball falls to Stanway, who drives a fierce shot at goal, but it's inches over.

09:12 PM

52 mins England 0-0 Belgium

It's been a bit of a flat start to the second half from England, who are trying to use the full width of the pitch in their attack, but without any intensity. There's not any real urgency about their play at the moment which is strange, considering how deep Belgium are sitting .

09:08 PM

48 mins England 0-0 Belgium

Bronze has picked up a booking after clipping  Minnaert. Belgium don't do anything special with their free kick and play it short, Stanway is lurking and robs back the ball, but can't drive into the area.

09:04 PM

Wiegman rings some changes for the second half

Chloe Kelly, Alex Greenwood and Rachel Daly on.Beth Mead, Lotte Wubben-Moy and Demi Stokes off.

Belgium also change their centre-back pairing.

09:00 PM

Here's a look at Williamson's chip..

08:57 PM

HALF TIME - England 0-0 Belgium

Well, that was.. anti-climatic? SO many chances for England, but they haven't managed to covert any. The hosts have enjoyed two thirds of the possession and have easily looked the better team.  Ellen White twice had the best chance to put the Lionesses ahead right in front of goal, while Stanway's effort from the edge of the area was another opportunity missed.

Williamson has been the standout player for England in that number-8 midfield role, she's linked up so well with Bronze and Mead, but Wiegman's side have just lacked that clinical edge. They will also be weary of Belgium's threat on the counter-attack - the visitors very nearly scored against the run of play with Delacauw's  pop at goal.

It will be interesting to see how England deal with the frustration of squandering so many chances.

08:49 PM

HALF TIME - England 0-0 Belgium

Mead receives the ball on the edge of the box but her dribble is fraught with indecision. She drives forward and looks destined to take a shot but the ball stays glued to her feet and Belgium manage to marshal the ball out of play, although concede a corner... but it's nothing the visitors can't deal with and the whistle blows.

08:45 PM

44 mins: England 0-0 Belgium

A solid passage of play from Belgium ends with Wijnants firing over. Half-time approaching.. w'eve got two minutes of added time.

08:44 PM

43 mins: England 0-0 Belgium

England still yet to make a breakthrough at Molineux, but Wrighty has been impressed with one particular player...

08:41 PM

39 mins: England 0-0 Belgium

The Lionesses squander another chance! This time it's Williamson who bursts into the area and chips the ball towards goal - Evard has rushed out off her line and reads it all wrong. Luckily for Belgium, Wijnants is back for to clear the ball off the line. It was a nice idea from the England captain but there just wasn't enough sting in her effort..

08:38 PM

35 mins: England 0-0 Belgium

Should that have been a penalty to England? Emma Hayes, who is co-commentating on the game for ITV, thinks so. Delacauw catches Beth Mead in the area, but the referee waves play on.

There's been a lot of yo-yoing in possession, but England have a corner. This time Mead fires it in, but it hardly causes any trouble for Belgium. White sticks afoot out to try and get something on it, but her connection isn't as clean as she'd like.

08:35 PM

33 mins: England 0-0 Belgium

This time it's Mead's turn.. she flicks the ball around a defender, lets the ball bounce, but then arrows her shot wide. Could this be one of those frustrating nights for England?

Belgium gather and work the ball down to the other end and Delacauw receives the ball but doesn't get enough on her shot.- They could have easily had the lead there...

08:31 PM

29 mins: England 0-0 Belgium

England continue to probe for an opener and win a corner. Bronze delivers a dangerously low in-swinging ball which is aimed at Bright, but the defender doesn't have enough time to position her body correctly and misses her chance.

The ball continues its trajectory through a sea of white and red shirts before falling perfectly for Ellen White, who is stationed right in front of goal.. but she can't turn it in! She swipes at the ball but completely misses it and Belgium clear.

08:28 PM

27 mins: England 0-0 Belgium

Georgia Stanway has a glorious chance to put England ahead.... but no! The midfielder surges forward with the ball and takes advantage of Belgium's lacklustre defence, which backs off her. Stanway looks like she has all the time in the world - which she does - but manages to swerve her shot wide of the left post...

08:26 PM

24 mins: England 0-0 Belgium

The Lionesses need to start getting their midfield on the ball. Millie Bright hoofs it up to Hemp on the wing, who wastes no time in firing a cross into the box but it's easily gobbled up by Evrard. After a bit of a shaky start, Belgium have adapted to the game and seem to have sussed out England a bit.

08:23 PM

20 mins: England 0-0 Belgium

Belgium are beginning to grow into the game a bit and have enjoyed a few spells of prolonged possession. The visitors are managing to shut off the central corridors that England have used to  orchestrate their early attacks. We've got a stoppage in play as Julie Biesmans is down injured after a challenge from White.

08:16 PM

14 mins: England 0-0 Belgium

Hemp receives the ball on her left flank and performs a cool keepy-uppy to drag the ball away from her marker, before driving inside with one of her usual trademark runs. She shrugs off a challenge but directs her shot into the side netting!

The Lionesses have upped the tempo and their play is much more direct..

08:13 PM

11 mins: England 0-0 Belgium

Ellen White tests Evrard after meeting Beth Meads' cross on the volley.. but Evard gets down low to her left corner and makes the save! That's been England's best chance yet.

08:12 PM

9 mins: England 0-0 Belgium

Beth Mead finds possession and Belgium give the Arsenal forward way too much space on the edge of the area - no on even challenges her - before England lose possession.

Lauren Hemp then wins back the ball off Wijnants down the left and marches into the penalty area. She threads a perfectly weighted ball to Georgia Stanway, who skies the ball way wide. The Bayern Munich midfielder should have done better there.

08:07 PM

5 mins: England 0-0 Belgium

England have started confidently, patiently bobbing the ball around the back and waiting for an opportunity to open up. This time it's Lucy Bronze's turn to surge forward down the right wing and penetrates the area but can't get a shot away cleanly.  Barely two minutes later, Williamson finds Bronze again on her flank and she presses forward again, eating up what seems like aches of green space in front of her. Belgium are going to have to be alert to that blind spot or they could concede early here..

08:02 PM

1 min: England 0-0 Belgium

And we're off! Both teams take the knee before kick-off. England start with possession and immediately thump the ball downfield. They're already putting pressure on the Belgium backline in the opening seconds of the game. Williamson breaks from the midfield and exploits some space to advance into the penalty area, but Belgium's keeper Nicky Evrard  easily gathers.

07:56 PM

The players emerge from the tunnel..

... and the anthems are being sung. There's a sizeable crowd at Molineux.

07:53 PM

Captain Leah Williamson speaks

07:49 PM

We're 10 mins away from kick-off

Jess Carter of England warms up prior to kick off - Naomi Baker /Getty Images
Jess Carter of England warms up prior to kick off - Naomi Baker /Getty Images
A young England fan with their family looks on prior to kick off - Naomi Baker/Getty Images
A young England fan with their family looks on prior to kick off - Naomi Baker/Getty Images

07:41 PM

England's red-hot streaks

England are unbeaten in their last 10 matches against Belgium in all competitions. The Lionesses' last defeat against The Red Flames came all the way back in 1980, when they lost 2-1 in a friendly.

A reminder that England are also yet to lose a game under Sarina Wiegman, with the Lionesses winning nine and drawing two of their 11 games under the Dutch manager.

07:35 PM

Millie's milestone

It's a special night for the Chelsea defender, who will be England's vice-captain for this summer's Euros.

07:30 PM

Sarina speaks

“It’s good to play after having three weeks of training and showing on the pitch where we are.

On her decision to leave out former captain Steph Houghton from the squad:

“It was a very hard decision but for the other four players we left out of the squad too. With Steph she was injured, we did everything - she did everything - to come back and get ready for the Euros but at the end, she’s not ready to compete yet, The time is just too short with the level that is asked at Euros.

On Alex Greenwood, who recently recovered from Covid, potentially making an impact from the bench:

“Alex is ready to play. She couldn’t train with the group last week, she did slime training but she started football training this week. She’s ready, but not for a full game. Just like most of the other players, they’ve had a holiday, now we have three weeks’ of training so we want to, if possible, manage the load a little bit.

On Chloe Kelly being back in the mix after a brief spell on the sidelines:

“The three starters up front today started a lot during last season. I started working with Chloe Kelly since the pre-camp, she’s done a great job. I’d really like to see her in the game too but she has to be a little patient. The same with Fran, she’s in a really good place and is going well and feeling good, but she hasn’t played for a while. She’s building up slowly and getting ready for July 6.”

07:18 PM

The teams in full..

ENG: Mary Earps (GK), Lucy Bronze, Demi Stokes, Keira Walsh, Millie Bright, Lotte Wubben-Moy, Beth Mead, Leah Williamson, Ellen White, Georgia Stanway, Lauren Hemp.

Subs: Rachel Daly, Hannah Hampton (GK), Fran Kirby, Ella Toone, Alex Greenwood, Nikita Parris, Chloe Kelly, Bethany England, Jill Scott, Ellie Roebuck (GK), Alessia Russo, Jess Carter. 

BEL: Nicky Evrard, Davina Deloose, Sari Kees, Laura De Neve, Davina Philtjens, Julie Biesmans, Marie Minnaert, Feli Delacauw, Sarah Wijnants, Tine De Caigny, Tessa Wullaert.

Subs: Lisa Lichtfus (GK), Diede Lemey (GK), Jody Vangheluwe, Amber Tysiak, Lenie Onzia, Davinia Vanmechelen, Charlotte Tison, Hannah Eurlings, Ella Van Kerkhoven. 

07:13 PM

England are good enough to win the Euros…

…says Luke Edwards, the Telegraph’s Northern Football Writer. In case you missed it, have a read of Luke’s deep-dive analysis on why this could - and should - be the Lionesses’ year.

“As harsh as it may seem, anything less than a place in the final will be viewed through the prism of failure and disappointment.

“England have reached the semi-finals of each of the last three tournaments, a run stretching back to 2015. The standards have been set, expectations must be matched and there is no room either for sentimentality with former captain Steph Houghton not included.”

07:08 PM

Let's take a look at England's starting XI

07:04 PM

England women vs Belgium preview

Good evening and welcome to our live coverage of England against Belgium - the first of the Lionesses’ warm-up games for this summer’s home Euros!

Sarina Weigman revealed her 23-strong squad for the tournament yesterday, with former captain Steph Houghton - who has struggled with an Achilles injury in recent months - the most high-profile omission.

England have enjoyed an easy ride since the Dutchwoman took over the helm last summer. They remain unbeaten in 11 games and have been scoring for fun against relatively easy opposition (remember that 20-0 hammering against Latvia?) To give an idea of their dominance, the Lionesses have bundled in 72 goals in their last 11 games. conceding just two.

But this is where it gets serious - and it’s why this fixture takes on added significance. This is the first real opportunity England's players will have to stake their claim for a starting spot in their Euros opener against Austria at Old Trafford on July 6.

Wiegman admitted she was "getting a little closer" to knowing her best XI when asked if strong individual performances against Belgium - before two further warm-up games against the Netherlands and Switzerland - could determine her starting selection.

“This team is really competitive so we have some hard choices to make. That is another reason as to why we play these three games," she said. "Players need to keep performing. When you play a really good game now you have opportunities. It's about knowing where the players are and looking at how we can make other scenarios work.”

Belgium, who will feature at this summer’s championships, have made steady strides on the women’s football scene over the past few years. The Red Flames are not lacking in experience in their ranks - keep an eye out for Janice Cayman, who has 124 international caps and is second in the all-time scorers' list.

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