Ellen White has been made to wait longer in her bid to match Wayne Rooney as the highest goalscorer in England history although the Lionesses thrashed Northern Ireland in their last Euro 2022 group game on Friday night. England were already confirmed as the winners of Group A but still put five past their local rivals to break the record for the most goals ever scored in a group stage at the tournament.
White, 33, went into the match knowing one goal would see her draw level with Manchester United icon Rooney as England’s all-time top goalscorer male or female. The retired striker managed 53 goals for the Three Lions with White sat on 52.
The Manchester City ace missed a great chance to draw level with Rooney in the first half, firing wide of the far post. But in the absence of manager Sarina Wiegman – who has tested positive for Covid – England were still comfortable winners at Southampton’s St Mary’s Stadium as assistant coach Arjan Veurink took the team.
It took a while for the first goal but after that, the floodgates opened. England were denied an early penalty by VAR but then broke the deadlock in the 40th minute. Fran Kirby’s brilliantly-placed effort curled into the top corner from the edge of the box to make it 1-0.
Northern Ireland, despite knowing they were already out of the tournament, had defended resiliently up to that point. But there was little they could do to prevent Chelsea forward Kirby’s strike and after that, the hosts ran riot.
England doubled their lead just four minutes later, with Beth Mead taking her tournament tally to five following her hat-trick against Austria. The Arsenal forward’s clever touch opened up space inside the box and she found the bottom corner courtesy of a deflection.
The Lionesses committed to Wiegman’s pre-match promise that she would name a strong starting eleven rather than take the opportunity to rotate the XI. White was then among a trio of players replaced at half-time, meaning she’d be made to wait for her record-breaking moment.
Millie Bright and Georgia Stanway also came off for the home team, with Alex Greenwood, Ella Toone and Alessia Russo sent on. And Russo scored twice with her first three touches. She headed in England’s third just three minutes into the second half, nodding in from Mead’s cross.
Just five minutes later the substitute, who plays for Manchester United, scored her second and England’s fourth. After being found by Toone, she lost her defender with a fine first touch and then slotted in. It got worse for Northern Ireland as Kelsie Burrows scored an unfortunate own goal, flicking Mead’s cross up over her own helpless goalkeeper.
Russio might’ve had a hat-trick late on but missed two fine chances including blasting over the bar from close range. England – who have scored a record 14 goals in just three group games – are poised to face the runners-up of Group B, Spain or Denmark, at Brighton’s Amex Stadium in their next match.
Spain play Denmark at Brentford on Saturday night to determine who England will play. Elsewhere in Group A, two-time winners Norway – one of the pre-tournament favourites – failed to reach the knockouts due to a defeat to Austria in Brighton.