Beth Mead’s quickfire second-half hat-trick helped England Women make history and seal a first ever win at Wembley on Saturday.
Sarina Wiegman could hardly have wished for a better start to life as manager. Three wins from three, 22 goals scored and a maiden victory at the home of football.
And it was down to two inspired second-half substitutions that ensured the Lionesses maintained their 100 per cent record to World Cup qualifying with a 4-0 win over Northern Ireland.
Beth Mead’s first international hat-trick did not tell the whole story against Northern Ireland
England side found this a tougher test after 8-0 and 10-0 victories in their first two qualifiers
‘I’m going to make an agreement every game that we bring in new players and they score three times,’ Wiegman joked.
‘That’s what you need to get to a high level and win matches.
‘I’m a little lucky. They were really ready to go in, that’s what a team needs. When you’re a substitute you have to be ready and that’s absolutely what they showed.’
Wiegman kept the same starting line-up that stuck 10 past Luxembourg last time out but after drawing a blank in the first period, the 51-year-old called on Mead and Bethany England – and the pair delivered.
Leah Williamson continued to wear the captain’s armband in Steph Houghton’s absence
Beth Mead brilliantly hooked home from about 10 yards out to open the scoring on 64 minutes
With her first touch of the game Mead broke the deadlock, sending a controlled volley past the visitors’ Jacqueline Burns on the swivel in the 64th minute.
Chelsea’s England got in on the act eight minutes later, tapping home a Lauren Hemp cross when unmarked at the back post.
With that the floodgates opened and Mead smashed home a second before passing the ball into an empty net for her treble and England’s fourth – much to the delight of her manager.
The England coaching team and the 23,225 fans would have been left wondering how the Lionesses weren’t ahead at the interval. Seventeen shots, 80 per cent possession, yet nothing to show for their dominance.
Beth England doubled the hosts’ advantage shortly afterwards as she bundled home
Mead had her eye in and scored her second in 10 minutes with an emphatically struck drive
MATCH FACTS AND RATINGS FROM WEMBLEY
ENGLAND (4-3-3): Earps 6; Daly 6 (Mead 64, 9), Bright 6, Greenwood 7 (Staniforth 80), Stokes 6 (Walsh 45, 6); Kirby 7 (Wubben-Moy 80), Williamson 7, Toone 6; Parris 7 (England 63, 8), White 6, Hemp 8.
Subs not used: MacIver, Hampton, Charles, Stanway, Scott, Russo, Carter
Goals: Mead 64, 74, 78, England 72
Yellow cards: None
Manager: Sarina Wiegman 8
NORTHERN IRELAND (5-4-1): Burns 5, McKenna 6, Nelson 6, McFadden 6, Burrows 5 (Watling 73, 6), Vance 6; Hamilton 6 (McGuinness 64, 5), McCarron 7, Furness 6 (McDaniel 74), Wade 6 (Beattie 81); Callaghan 6 (Wilson 81)
Subs not used: Flaherty, Clifford, McLaren, Caldwell, Rafferty, Andrews.
Yellow cards: Burrows
Manager: Shiels 6
Referee: Ivana Martincic 6
Credit must be given to the visitors’ ability to execute manager Kenny Shiels’ gameplan with resolute and disciplined defending. They were camped in their half with five and sometimes six in defence, and never wavered from the task, with the onslaught persistent.
Wiegman’s side needed patience but also creativity in attack to try to find the smallest of cracks in the Northern Ireland wall.
Wingers Hemp and Nikita Parris offered intelligent runs with the former rattling the crossbar with a fierce left-footed strike early on.
The Arsenal forward then completed her treble to secure the team’s first-ever Wembley win
Leah Williamson, captain in place of the injured Steph Houghton, could have had at least a hat-trick of her own in the first half as she saw several headers go agonisingly close and a strike sail over the bar.
While defender Alex Greenwood took matters into her own hands by launching a thunderous left-footed strike at goal from range, only for it to cannon off the woodwork.
A combination of bad luck, good goalkeeping, last-ditch tackles and poor accuracy meant the visitors headed into the break level.
But England – and Mead – made their dominance count, eventually.