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Grace Clinton scores on England debut as Lionesses ease past Austria

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 23 Feb 2024

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England debutant Grace Clinton made a magical introduction with a goal in the Lionesses’ 7-2 victory over Austria in their opening game of 2024.

Alessia Russo struck twice and added an assist at Spain’s Estadio Nuevo Mirador, taking advantage of a mistake by her Arsenal team-mate Manuela Zinsberger to open the scoring with an early goal before Clinton opened her England account with a header.

Virginia Kirchberger got Austria back into the game, but Beth Mead restored the Lionesses’ two-goal advantage before the break with Russo completing her brace and substitute Jess Carter flicking in a fifth shortly after her introduction.

Kirchberger nodded Austria’s second with two minutes remaining but there was still time for Mead to pounce on Lauren James’ rebound to bag a brace of her own before Rachel Daly completed the rout in five minutes of stoppage time.

Manchester City defender Alex Greenwood wore the captain’s armband in the absence of Euro 2022-winning captain Leah Williamson and World Cup skipper Millie Bright, both sidelined with injury.

Chelsea forward Aggie-Beever Jones earned a late maiden call-up to the senior side, taking the place of Chloe Kelly, who was being assessed for a minor injury, while Fran Kirby was initially named to the starting XI but pulled up in the warm-up and was replaced by Ella Toone.

Zinsberger spilled Mead’s effort that allowed fellow Gunner Russo to tuck the rebound past the Austria shot-stopper inside three minutes.

England goalkeeper Hannah Hampton was called into action for the first time to claim a free-kick, and while Austria’s Eileen Campbell had encroached on the Lionesses’ territory it was Clinton who came agonisingly close to scoring the game’s second when her effort hit the woodwork.

However, she made no mistake moments later, opening her England account after a well-worked sequence of build-up from the back ended in a fine cross from Lauren Hemp for the 20-year-old Tottenham midfielder, on loan from Manchester United, to nod home in the 19th minute.

Austria halved the deficit just inside the half-hour mark after Greenwood was forced to concede a corner and an unmarked Kirchberger gave Hampton no chance, powering her header home.

Mead restored England’s two-goal advantage seven minutes later, cutting inside before firing a lovely left-footed effort into the corner.

Sarina Wiegman made two changes at half-time, bringing on Lotte Wubben-Moy for Greenwood and James for Hemp as England piled on the pressure, Georgia Stanway forcing Zinsberger into a tipped save.

It was Stanway’s determined pressing on her Bayern Munich team-mate Sarah Zadrazil that would allow England to win the ball high up the pitch and thread through to Russo, who bagged her brace with a low finish.

The 61st-minute strike was the end to Russo’s evening, Wiegman ringing more changes, and it was Carter who was credited with England’s fifth goal eight minutes after her introduction in the 62nd minute.

It was largely due to the efforts of Wubben-Moy, who nodded Mead’s corner in the direction of the Chelsea defender, who flicked past Zinsberger.

England failed to deal with another Austria corner, and, just as in the first half, allowed Kirchberger to nod past Hampton, but the celebrations were short-lived.

James was inches away from getting in on the action, beating three defenders before clipping an effort off the crossbar before Mead pounced on the rebound to make it 6-2, four minutes before substitute Daly completed the rout with a clinical finish.

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