England on track at World Cup as Chelsea pair help Lionesses beat Mexico for first win in Canada

England 2-1 Mexico

Chelsea’s Eniola Aluko and Claire Rafferty helped England to their first win of the FIFA Women’s World Cup on Saturday.

Fran Kirby, in her first start for England, rose to the occasion by putting her side ahead against Mexico, before Karen Carney followed up with a second.

A shaky moment from Karen Bardsley gifted Mexico’s Ibarra a goal back but the victory coupled with France’s shock 2-0 defeat to Colombia, leaves the Lionesses second in Group F going into their final group game on Wednesday.

A draw should be enough to see them through with four of the six third-placed teams going into the second round.

The night was very much about 21-year-old Kirby, the only squad member from the WSL’s second tier, dribbling her way through the box to score past Mexico’s Santiago.

Manager Mark Sampson said: “Special players step up in special moments, there’s more to come for her.”

Suffering from depression after the loss of her mother who died of a brain haemorrhage, Kirby gave up football at 17 but found her way back to the game two years later.

She said: “Everything I do is to make mum proud. I’m sure I’ve done that.”

Changing tack after England’s opening defeat to France, Sampson opted for a 4-3-3 formation leaving striker Aluko flanked by Toni Duggan and Kirby, with Chelsea’s Katie Chapman dropped to the bench.

Sampson said: “It was about building momentum and getting three points and we’ve done that.

“We’ve laid some good foundations, now it’s about taking on and bringing the defensive aspects of the French game.”

While a frustrated Aluko failed to find the back of the net, the altered set-up meant a raft of chances for England in the first half including a vintage Fara Williams shot from her own half.

In the second half, Mexican forwards Ocampo and Cuellar rattled a nervous-looking Bardsley until Sampson made some changes from the bench.

Jill Scott made way for Carney and Alex Greenwood came on for Rafferty, who received a minor bash to the knee.

Shortly after Kirby opened the scoring in the 70th minute, Greenwood’s brilliant delivery was steered into the net by Carney waiting at the far post.

Sampson said: “It’s a positive result for us, they took some flack after the France game and had to respond in a positive manner and they did.”

England face Colombia on Wednesday at 9pm.

Feature image of Mark Sampson, courtesy of BBC, with thanks

Related Articles