England wrapped up their home qualifiers for Euro 2017 with a convincing 5-0 win over Estonia at Meadow Lane on Thursday night in front of over 7,000 fans. This was always going to be as straight forward as it gets for the Lionesses. England had won the away match against their opponents 8-0 and Estonia are yet to pick up a point in this group.
The question going into the game wasn’t really the result but it was more about England trying out different combinations, and giving some of the younger player’s time on the pitch in a competitive international fixture in front of a decent sized home crowd.
The stand out feature of that 8-0 away win was a hat-trick for Arsenal’s Danielle Carter. Since then she has been out of the England set up with this being her first game since then. However she repeated the same feat again; grabbing another hat-trick, with Jill Scott adding a first half goal and a Karen Carney penalty in added on time completing the scoring.
It’s been a long road back into the squad for Carter and England boss Mark Sampson was quick to heap praise on her for her work rate “She was excellent...There is far more aggression in her game and far more intensity, She needed to add some bits technically to her game, but now she looks sharp, confident and aggressive”. He later added “She has the mentality now that she wakes up in the morning, knows what she needs to do and how to achieve it”.
As for the game Carter got England on their way it the 9th minute when, with her back to goal, she turned got away from the defender and fired low in the corner of the goal. England only had to wait another 4 minutes for the second when Jill Scott headed home from close range to all but kill the game off as a contest. Carter grabbed her third of the night on 17 minutes when a great low cross from Nikita Parris found her in space leaving her a simple finish from 6 yards out. To their credit Estonia didn’t buckle and kept England out until the break.
Carter got her hat-trick in the 56th minute. A corner was half cleared to the edge of the box and Carter made no mistake in firing home from 25 yards.
The rest of the game petered out as England made changes with a tough away game in Belgium on Tuesday night in mind. The fifth came in added on time when England won a penalty which was converted by Carney.
Away from the England game on Thursday night it was a mixed weekend for the other British sides in European championship qualifying action. On Friday night Northern Ireland welcomed Italy to Mountview stadium in Lurgan. The hosts’ chances of qualifying may have been over, but the visitors are still right in the hunt to qualify via the playoffs or as a best second placed team.
Northern Ireland have made great progress performance wise during this qualifying campaign and for much of this game they matched their visitors. Italy however took the lead on the stroke of halftime. Northern Ireland started too tired in the second half and two late goals gave the scoreline a one sided look. There are signs however that the future could be bright for this Northern Ireland team and with the centre back pairing of Julie Nelson and Ashley Hutton the side has a real core to build around. The side face group winners Switzerland away in midweek in what will be another tough test for this group of players.
Scotland qualified for Euro 2017 on Friday night without kicking a ball as a result of Finland losing to Portugal. The Scots travel to Iceland for their final group game and although qualification has already been assured they will want to put in a good performance against the group winners and avenge the 4-0 defeat Iceland inflicted on them at Motherwell earlier in the campaign. Wales won’t be in the finals in Holland next year but they did pick up a 3-0 win over Israel at Newport thanks to goals from Ward and Estcourt.