Karen Carney was on target on a glorious night for England Women as Phil Neville’s Lionesses thrashed Japan to lift the SheBelieves Cup, crowning a mouth-watering week of World Cup warm-up action for a large Chelsea contingent.
The Chelsea Women captain nodding home a rare headed goal in the 23rd minute was one of the least remarkable aspects of a fantastic performance, in which an England team that also featured Carly Telford and Fran Kirby won 3-0, clinching their first trophy with Neville as their head coach.
Carney’s clinical strike, her first for the Lionesses since suffering an ankle injury last season, came in between similarly well-executed goals by Georgia Staniforth and Beth Mead inside half an hour, ensuring the European side never looked like losing what was an all-or-nothing final game of the round-robin competition.
Carly Telford started in goal for the third time in the last four England games and it took until well into the second half for her to be tested. She had to work hard late on to secure the clean sheet as the Japanese ploughed forwards in search of consolation, but that was the only uncertainty in an otherwise comprehensive display.
Fran Kirby featured for the last 10 minutes having been rested after her influential role in the first two fixtures, supplying an assist in each as England bounced back to come away 2-1 winners against Brazil, three days before drawing 2-2 in a thrilling game against the world number one side and host nation the USA on Saturday night.
Three months before the start of the World Cup finals in France, Neville will be satisfied as much by the manner of the win as the outcome itself, which allowed England to banish the demons of their heart-breaking loss against Japan in the semi-finals four years ago, and ahead of their meeting in this year’s group stage.
Back in Europe this week, Erin Cuthbert scored the second goal and played a key part in the third as Scotland thrashed Iceland 4-1 to finish runners-up in their Algarve Cup group. The Blues forward brought her usual tenacity to a high-intensity display, winning the ball on the edge of the box and eventually rounding off the move. It was the rebound from her bullet strike which further extended the Scots’ lead shortly after the break.
Scotland will face Denmark in their play-off match for fifth place at 1.15pm UK time on Wednesday, while Ramona Bachmann’s Switzerland will play Spain for seventh place after the Chelsea striker starred in their 3-1 win against Portugal. The Swiss were also second in their group but had a lesser goal difference.
At the Cyprus Cup, Adelina Engman played 80 minutes of Finland’s 1-0 loss to North Korea.
Sophie Ingle’s Wales lost narrowly to the Republic of Ireland on Tuesday in the second of two friendlies between the teams in Marbella. Their first match had finished goalless last week, while Arsenal striker Louise Quinn scored the only goal on this occasion. Both teams are looking ahead to Euro 2021 qualification.
By Danny Wittenberg
The next chances to see Chelsea Women’s international stars in action in London are on Thursday 21 March when we host PSG in the Champions League and Sunday 31 March, a WSL match against West Ham. Click for tickets