An early goal from Ellen White helped a second-best England team settle at home to Austria, the Lionesses able to kick up through the gears and find a better performance after Lucy Bronze’s second-half goal.
White grabs an early goal
Despite starting brightly and winning the not just the first corner of the game but the team to apply the pressure and keen Siobhan Chamberlain on her toes, it was Austria who were pegged back and early. The first real England attack brought about the first goal, taking all of nine seconds for Demi Stokes to get forward and find Izzy Christiansen with a low pass, the Man City midfielder able to whip the ball into the danger zone, Ellen White’s glancing header enough to best Manuela Zinsberger. The hosts immediately on the offensive after their opener, Austria left a little shocked.
The goal helped to settle the hosts who didn’t look their best, but a fine whipped ball from the right from Jordan Nobbs had Zinsberger scrambling to tip the ball away, the danger far from averted. With the ball still live in the attacking third the ball worked its’ way out to Millie Bright although her punt from distance was far from convincing. A swift counter from the visitors almost played Lisa Makas in, the forward three of Makas, Nina Burger and Nicola Billa keen to work the back line.
Still growing in confidence, England ranged forward, the visitors happy enough to drop back into banks and flood their own half, limiting the space for the Lionesses. England at their best out wide, able to stretch the play and work the gaps, the hosts carrying a strong threat in and around the box, able to lash the ball across the face, white shirts queuing up in the area.
Chances at both ends
Indecision across the backline was only spurring England on, Nobbs’ flicked ball was just right for Toni Duggan to head toward goal calling Zinsberger into a fine low reaction save. Nonplussed by the home attacks, Austria went again, but they were unable to advance on Chamberlain’s goal, Sarah Zadrazil opted to shoot from range, her half-hearted effort an easy catch for the Liverpool number one.
Chamberlain was less comfortable with a shot from the same woman two minutes later, persistent work in the home half enough for Austria to get bodies forward and into the box. Able to slip into the area, Zadrazil had time to pick her spot but went early and was forced to watch her shot curl wide, possession and pressure frequently changing hands.
Able to get bodies forward five minutes before the break, Billa and Burger able to riff off of each other, the Sand striker did well to slip in behind but like Zadrazil before her, fired wide with more time to spare. The pendulum swinging back to England in stoppage time for the hosts to claim the last chance as White zipped through midfield before feeding the ball to Duggan, the flag raised as the City striker make a connection and Zinsberger dived to smuggle the weak effort.
The second-half started at a frantic pace with both sides taking no prisoners, a spell of Austria pressure flowed into a home attack, Zinsberger lively to make three fine saves inside of a minute. A ball slipped through to Duggan drew the first low reaction save from the Munich keeper, the resulting corner a melee in the area that saw Zinsberger made a superb double-save with her feet, Christiansen unable to put her chances way. With hosts on the front foot the Austrian backline looked sloppy, white shirts off the shoulder and in behind, Nobbs’ snapshot flew over the new corner but the hosts reset and went again.
An Austria corner just before the hour was well managed by England and the Lionesses were able to bring the ball away when Nobbs nibbled the ball away from Sarah Puntigam, the midfielder streaking forward but her lay-off to White was pounced upon by the keeper. Just like White’s chance before the break, the better option would have been the selfish one, Zinsberger’s positioning was uncertain.
As the hosts saw more of the ball, the last line of defence continued to look suspect for Austria, the players not quite on the same wavelength. Pressed to the front foot, England found their cushion half-way through the second-half, a poor clearance found Christiansen whose scooped ball deflected over Zinsberger and against the underside of the bar with the keeper left on her backside. Unable to scramble to the loose ball first, the keeper was left floored as Lucy Bronze rushed past her teammates and smashed the ball into the roof of the net.
England on the attack
Despite their regimented game-plan, Austria were hugely wasteful with their set-pieces and found themselves easily countered on, a poor corner saw the Lionesses come knocking again, White’s first-time effort knocked clear by the keeper. The tempo well raised after the break, with Christiansen finding better areas to play in since the reshape and introduction of Karen Carney, a third goal loomed.
As the match wore on the game became more and more stretched, the impetus very much with the hosts as another corner brought about the third goal of the game. Nobbs’ corner swung in and was well met by Steph Houghton, her header from fifteen yards a howler for the keeper, who looked to have the measure of the ball before letting it slip beyond her gloves. The goals for England arguably more important than the performance, the team left stung after not taking their chances against Italy, a healthy score (and clean-sheet) a useful confidence boost.
The Austria attacks more sporadic across the last twenty minutes, the bite having long since left their attack, the problems for Dominik Thalhammer easy to see.