Rachel Daly, Chloe Kelly, Ella Toone and Jess Park were all on target in a stylish 4-0 win as England dispatched former world champions Japan at the Pinatar Arena, further strengthening their position as one of the favourites for next year’s World Cup.
Debutant Park, on from the substitutes’ bench, rounded off the scoring late on to put the gloss on a thoroughly ruthless attacking display, as Sarina Wiegman extended her unbeaten reign as manager to 25 games.
Daly’s goal had given England a half-time lead and the European champions turned on the style after the break as Kelly and Toone struck before 21-year-old Park wrapped things up in the last minute of the 90.
Kelly, England’s most impressive outlet, was rewarded for all her first-half endeavour when sweeping home Beth Mead’s cross in the 53rd minute, cementing her claim for a regular starting berth in the absence of the injured Lauren Hemp.
Ebony Salmon, another Lionesses newcomer, was then involved in England’s final foray of the night when providing the fourth, robbing Moeka Minami of possession before cutting the ball back for Park to make a near-instant impact.
England team news
Sarina Wiegman was forced into changes with Lauren Hemp absent, Alex Greenwood fatigued and Lucy Bronze ruled out after testing positive for Covid-19.
Fran Kirby was also missing with illness, but England showed growing depth as Esme Morgan and Niamh Charles made their first international starts.
Park puts seal on satisfying victory
Park scored just seconds into her debut as England eased to victory over Japan in Spain, with Wiegman commending her side for their defiance and show of “attractive football”.
The Lionesses are now unbeaten in their last 25 outings, with preparations for next summer’s World Cup well on track.
Japan, ranked 11th in the world, were seen as providing a unique technical challenge to test England’s seemingly unbreakable resolve, but it was one they comfortably dealt with.
It also demonstrated how blessed England are with young, breakthrough talent – with 21-year-old Salmon laying on Toone’s strike, before orchestrating the opening for Park to mark a memorable international bow.
Chelsea forward Lauren James was equally eager to impress and was at the heart of England’s third goal, driving from midfield before shifting the ball to Salmon who played a clever reverse pass to tee up Toone.
The only minor disappointment of an otherwise pleasing evening was that returning forward Alessia Russo was unable to extend her purple patch in front of goal, despite nearly nodding in Kelly’s in-swinging cross in the 26th minute – only finding the outside of the far post.
Wiegman praises ‘attractive’ display
England head coach Sarina Wiegman:
“We played a very good game. It was a very attractive game with lots of football.
“Japan played football too, which made for a very tactical, technical game. I really enjoyed it. They played in a little different shape to what we’re used to so it’s good to see we can do that.
“I really liked how we solved that. In the game they also changed it – we had to adapt all the time. We scored four so that’s really nice.
“It is good to see young players playing well, they did very well. It is only two minutes so we can’t really evaluate her [Jess Park] performance but when you make your debut and score – I haven’t seen her stop smiling yet.”
Kelly: Great to be back on scoresheet
England forward Chloe Kelly:
“This is a great Japan side and I think we did well on the night. A great team performance and we go again Tuesday.
“Scoring always feels so good. I’ve waited some time for that so it’s great to be on the scoresheet.
“We turned up tonight. We can be proud of that performance. Everything is a building block, we showed our quality again. It’s so great to be out there, I’m really enjoying my football.”
Analysis: England the team to beat
Sky Sports’ Laura Hunter:
“Another show of sheer supremacy from Sarina Wiegman’s side. There is no stopping England under the Dutchwoman. Her record is phenomenal, but, more than that, the Lionesses now carry a menacing air of inevitability. Not in an arrogant way, but they know they are a formidable challenge for any opponent. They are ruthless and unafraid.
“The European champions will be aiming for world domination in 2023 and, based on recent history, who is to deny them a realistic shot. They have conquered the reigning world champions USA at Wembley, and now they have seen off another of the game’s elite.
“During Wiegman’s tenure, they have beaten all four sides to have lifted a World Cup trophy. If that is not a comforting omen heading into next summer’s tournament, I don’t know what is. Expectations are continually rising.”
Analysis: Lionesses outclassed technical Japan
Sky Sports reporter Anton Toloui:
“Talking to Sarina Wiegman after the game she seemed happier with this result and performance than she was when England beat USA at Wembley.
“The demanding head coach was pleased with the ruthlessness in front of goal, being able to beat such a technical side in Japan and by the young players that made an impact.
“Wiegman gave first starts to two defenders in Niamh Charles and Esme Morgan and she was delighted with how both played. Her biggest smile, however, was reserved for Jess Park, who scored 79 seconds into her debut.
“Wiegman admits she is optimistic about the future of this England side – she is clearly eyeing up trophies for years to come.”
The Lionesses next face Norway at the Pinatar Arena on Tuesday November 15, kick-off 7pm, to round off international action for 2022 – a year that will be remembered as England’s most satisfying yet.