Lauren Hemp’s double helps the revitalized Lionesses to a comfortable win against Italy | England women’s football team

England could have slumped even further after failing to reach the Nations League final at the end of 2023, meaning Team GB would have missed out on the Olympics. Instead, they spoke of reboots, new beginnings and new beginnings. In Spain they put those words into action with a 5-1 win over Italy and Friday night’s impressive 7-2 win over Austria, setting them on their way to defending their European title next year.

Against Italy, Lotte Wubben-Moy opened the game, Lauren Hemp scored twice and substitutes Ella Toone and Rachel Daly each ensured another comfortable win. These games are just friendlies, but there was no mood for friendship as England had to hit the reset button hard and fast after a disappointing Nations League season.

There were several changes in the team that secured the victory over Austria. Manchester United’s Grace Clinton, who is on loan at Tottenham, kept her place in midfield after her debut goal and impressive performance, while Keira Walsh, Lucy Bronze, Chloe Kelly, Mary Earps and Wubben-Moy all made the starting XI.

For Wubben-Moy, who replaced Alex Greenwood at half-time against Austria, this start was a long time coming. Before kick-off, Sarina Wiegman praised her good form at club level for being there from the start. “She’s doing really well at Arsenal. She did very well for us too and as I said before this game, we have two games, we want to see a lot of players, so this is her start,” said the manager.

However, Arsenal’s centre-back form is not new: Wubben-Moy has been excellent for Arsenal all season, stepping up towards the end of last season following an anterior cruciate ligament injury to Leah Williamson. Prior to her start at the Estadio Nuevo Mirador, Wubben-Moy had not played a game for England since June 2022, with Millie Bright, Greenwood, Esme Morgan, Jess Carter and Maya Le Tissier among those selected ahead of her when available.

Wubben-Moy, who waited patiently and occasionally switched to the squad, responded brilliantly to the challenge of starting for her country. She scored the opening goal within two minutes of kick-off, with the centre-back losing her marker and Greenwood’s corner sliding into the far corner.

The 25-year-old defender remembered who she wanted to dedicate her first England goal to. She crossed her arms over her chest and wiggled a little, as she did after scoring for Arsenal against Bristol City, in tribute to Izzy, a severely deaf young fan who met some of the players in July 2023 and taught them sign language.

Lotte Wubben-Moy’s header gives England an early lead. Photo: Fran Santiago/The FA/Getty Images

Wubben-Moy almost scored again within five minutes, but goalkeeper Laura Giuliani pushed her low header from a free kick around the post. England were unrestrained in the first half, pressing aggressively and with a fire that had waned somewhat after last summer’s grueling World Cup final defeat.

Wiegman’s team was strongest from set pieces and converted two more corners within the first 35 minutes. First, Giuliani batted away Greenwood’s corner, but Italy failed to clear and Hemp forced a shot through a sea of ​​bodies and into the goal. Then Bronze did well to keep the ball in play after another Greenwood corner was cleared and Georgia Stanway passed it for Hemp to send it on a loop.

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Against Austria, England seemed to be the vulnerable team in standard situations, but here they became more dangerous. But a defensive error allowed Italy to create a rare chance at the end of the half when Niamh Charles’ pass to the under-pressure Greenwood allowed Sofia Cantore to win the ball and find Michela Catena, who fed centre-forward Michela Cambiaghi who pushed the ball in.

Wiegman turned things around in the second half, subbing Carter and Lauren James for Alessia Russo and Charles at half-time, then Toone and Jess Park for Stanway and Clinton just after the hour mark.

Two of these would combine for England’s fourth goal, with James directing a wonderful pass from the left back to Toone in the first half. Another change, with Kelly switching to Daly, would lead to the fifth, with Daly dancing freely past the onrushing Giuliani and lining up.

Greenwood was next off, Millie Turner came on and England dropped the defense to three, but the momentum was still maintained. That’s what impressed us most about these two encounters. the seamlessness of the English game despite the frequency of changes.

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