England’s women were cooking on gas last night as they launched their European Championship campaign with a scoreline befitting their status as World Cup semi-finalists.
Danielle Carter marked her debut with a hat-trick and fellow newcomer Isobel Christiansen struck a stunning volley as Mark Sampson began the process of building on England’s success in Canada.
Being heavy favourites last night, England’s players had spent the build-up reminding each other of the need to avoid basic errors through complacency. They used as their example the mistake made by The Great British Bake Off favourite Marie Campbell, who was knocked out after forgetting to turn her oven on. “The girls have been going around saying ‘turn the oven on’,” said manager Sampson ahead of kick-off. In the event, they took time to run up the heat but eventually gave their part-time opponents a grilling.
With several World Cup heroines injured, Sampson used the opportunity to blood new players, giving debuts to Christiansen of Manchester City and Arsenal striker Carter. With several others enjoying recalls, only four of the starting XI had played in the World Cup.
While England are now fully professional with central contacts and club deals, Estonia’s players are nearly all amateurs who combine football with working in schools, orphanages and offices.
In the opening minutes the disparity was obvious with England much quicker in thought and deed. They quickly gained the important first goal with Carter driving into the roof of the net after her initial attempt had been blocked.
This goal should have settled any English anxieties, but instead it seemed to dispell home nerves as Estonia picked up the pace of the game. They even created opportunities with Signy Aarna, who plays in Finland, keeping Carly Telford and her defenders busier than anticipated.
England’s men laboured to a 1-0 Euro 16 qualifying victory in this stadium last October and for half an hour it looked as though this could be a similarly frustrating night against a home team well drilled by English manager Keith Boanas. But finally England scored again, from an unexpected source as holding midfielder Jo Potter, who played under Boanas at Charlton, tucked away a 32nd-minute Fran Kirby cross. Nine minutes later Amy Turner, Gemma Davison and Carter combined for Kirby to score a typically well-taken goal.
England began the second half much sharper and Jill Scott turned in Davison’s cross for the fourth. Christiansen then volleyed in the best goal of the night from 20 yards. With Estonia tiring, Kirby scored her second, then Carter struck twice to seal a hat-trick. She departed clutching the matchball with a smile as wide as Tallinn harbour.
“These games are always difficult,” said Sampson. “You come into them as huge favourites and have to break a team down. Credit Estonia, they were well organised and gave it a real go, but we were clinical and had some impressive debuts.”
Of the hosts, Boanas said: “They gave me everything, I’m so proud of them. I told them at times they matched full-time professionals at the peak of their fitness and ability. But tiredness inevitably told.”
England’s next qualifying opponents are Bosnia & Herzegovina, who they play in Bristol on 29 November. Three days before that, however, they face European champions Germany in Duisburg in a repeat of the fiery World Cup third-place play-off. “What a great test for us, against a wounded animal,” said Sampson who knows that will be a much sterner examination of his remodelling.
Estonia (4-1-4-1): Laar; Lepik, Paulus, Raadik, Zlidnis; Ounpuu (Himanen, 55); Bannikova (Toom, 75), Vals, Palmaru (Pello, 81), Loo; Aarna. England (3-4-1-2): Telford; Turner, Houghton, Stokes; Davison (White, 78), J Scott (Aluko, 68), Potter, Kirby; Christiansen; Carter, Clarke (Stoney, 90). Referee D Gokcek (Turkey).Reuse content