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Ellen White marks 100th England cap with winner against Austria

England v Austria – FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 – UEFA Qualifier – Group D – Stadium of Light
(Image credit: Zac Goodwin)

Ellen White marked her 100th cap with a 45th international goal to hand England a Women’s World Cup qualifying victory over Austria as they extended their perfect start on wintry Wearside.

White’s 40th-minute strike, which took her to within one of Kelly Smith’s record tally, clinched a 1-0 win at the Stadium of Light on a day when Sarina Wiegman’s side dominated possession, but struggled to convert it into chances.

Nevertheless, they will head into Tuesday’s clash with Latvia – who they beat 10-0 in Riga last month – at the Keepmoat Stadium sitting five points clear at the top of Group D with five wins out of five.

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They needed two second-half saves from keeper Mary Earps to preserve their record of not having conceded a single goal in the campaign to date but, with Fran Kirby, Beth Mead and Lauren Hemp impressive going forward, rarely looked in danger of emerging with anything less than three points.

England, who replaced Leah Williamson and Beth England with Demi Stokes and Rachel Daly, gradually worked their way into the game after a scrappy start in difficult conditions as Keira Walsh settled things down in the middle of the pitch.

Alex Greenwood sent a 10th-minute free-kick straight into keeper Manuela Zinsberger’s midriff and Mead could not sort out her feet quickly enough at the far post to convert Kirby’s driven cross four minutes later.

The home side were starting to find their feet with Mead and Kirby prospering wide on the right, but were unable to produce a final ball of note, although Lauren Hemp warmed Zinsberger’s hands with a well-struck drive from distance after intercepting the keeper’s misdirected clearance.

England celebrate Ellen White's winner

England celebrate Ellen White’s winner (Zac Goodwin/PA)

Skipper Millie Bright drilled a shot just wide from 30 yards, but Mead increasingly looked the most likely to unlock the massed Austrian ranks, and the keeper was grateful to see her 36th-minute cross diverted straight to her by defender Virginia Kirchberger just ahead of White.

The opening goal eventually arrived five minutes before half-time when, after her initial effort had been blocked, Kirby lifted the ball towards the far post for White to thump it into the roof of the net.

Zinsberger denied Kirby and White in quick succession as the whistle approached, but England headed for the dressing room with work still to do.

They received a timely reminder of that within five minutes of the restart when Earps, who had until that point been a virtual spectator, had to react smartly to turn away Barbara Dunst’s deflected shot.

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Earps was extended much further three minutes later when she dived to her right to parry Sarah Zadrazil’s rising drive after a flowing attack with Austria sensing an opportunity.

Mead saw appeals for a penalty waved away by referee Kateryna Monzul after she had gone down under Carina Wenninger’s challenge amid a hailstorm on Wearside, but then forced a decent 65th-minute save from Zinsberger after being played in by Kirby.

The home side hammered away at the visitors’ defence as time ran down with Zinsberger saving from Daly, but White’s contribution ultimately proved decisive.

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