Northern Ireland 0-5 England: Alessia Russo shines off bench as Lionesses maintain perfect Euro 2022 record

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·3-min read
Northern Ireland 0-5 England: Alessia Russo shines off bench as Lionesses maintain perfect Euro 2022 record
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England continued their perfect start to Euro 2022 as they completed their group-stage campaign with a 5-0 win over Northern Ireland.

The Lionesses did not have it all their own way at St Mary’s, as Northern Ireland produced a resolute display, but England found their ruthless edge once the breakthrough eventually came.

Fran Kirby and Beth Mead put the tournament hosts two goals ahead going into the break, and Alessio Russo came off the bench to net a quick-fire brace early in the second-half. Kelsie Burrows’s own goal gave English a fifth in cruel fashion.

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Despite scoring only once in their opening match against Austria, England’s group-stage goal tally of 13 is the most any team have managed in the tournament’s history. They are also yet to concede a goal.

Attention now turns to Wednesday’s quarter-final, when England will face either Spain or Denmark in a last-eight clash.

Sarina Wiegman was absent from the touchline after testing positive for Covid, but as promised it was a strong Lionesses line-up as they remained unchanged from the dominant win over Norway.

England initially found this a more difficult assignment though, Northern Ireland doing a good job of shutting down the space. The referee awarded the Lionesses a penalty, after Laura Rafferty was deemed to have blocked a shot with her arm, but that decision was overturned after a long VAR review.

Ellen White and then Lucy Bronze missed big chances to break the deadlock, before Georgia Stanway had an effort cleared off the line.

Eventually the goals did come, just before half-time. Kirby curled a brilliant first-time effort into the top corner from the edge of the box, after a shot from Lauren Hemp had been blocked.

Fran Kirby and Beth Mead got England up and running at St Mary’s (REUTERS)
Fran Kirby and Beth Mead got England up and running at St Mary’s (REUTERS)

One quickly became two as Mead showed real composure to double the lead four minutes later with the help of a slight deflection, bringing up her fifth goal of the tournament.

Russo was introduced at the break and swiftly presented a compelling case for more minutes. She headed home from Mead’s cross barely two minutes into the second-half, before getting her second, and England’s fourth, soon after. Ella Toone fizzed a pass into her path, Russo produced a stunning turn to create the space and then found a composed finish.

Toone had a number of efforts from range, as she tried to make the most of another cameo off the bench, before the fifth goal did come in fortuitous circumstances. Mead remained as hungry as ever to make an impact, cutting inside and firing a ball into the box which flicked off Burrows’ outstretched leg and flew over the helpless Jacqueline Burns.

Russo missed two huge chances in the space of a minute to seal the match ball late on, though that did little to dampen the spirits of the England fans watching on as their side marched into the quarter-finals in ominous form.

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