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England have too much class for spirited Girls in Green

England glided past the Republic of Ireland with a classy, ruthlessly efficient performance in Tuesday night’s Euro 2025 qualifier at the Aviva Stadium.

Last Friday France had 21 efforts and just one goal to show for it when they beat the Girls in Green. Here, Sarina Wiegman’s reigning European champions rattled the net twice from the six attempts they fashioned in a commanding first half.

Lauren James drilled home the opener on 12 minutes, and Alex Greenwood converted a penalty seven minutes later after Ruesha Littlejohn was penalised for a handball. Greenwood hit the post when the visitors won another spot-kick just before the half-hour mark.

Eileen Gleeson’s charges – limited, but typically spirited – did have their moments in the second half. One of Megan Campbell’s trademark long throws led to a chance that Anna Patten mishit; and Caitlin Hayes drew a smart save from Hannah Hampton after a back-post header. Katie McCabe also tested Hampton in an encouraging final 15 minutes, but the hosts could not get the goal the majority of the 32,742 crowd craved.

England, loaded with winning experience, saw it out to condemn Ireland to another loss.

This one was not without its positives; just another reminder of how brutally competitive life at the top is going to be in this challenging qualification campaign.

Ireland stuck with the 5-4-1 setup they adopted against France, though there was a couple of tweaks to the lineup. McCabe went to left wing-back, Aoife Mannion was stationed on the right, while Lucy Quinn and Littlejohn were brought into the engine room.

From the tip-off, Carusa nudged the ball to O’Sullivan who immediately went on the attack. It looked like a signal of intent, but it . The hosts would soon drop into a deep block and challenge England to break them down.

Challenge accepted.

The Lionessess turned the screw with the patience of cat burglar cracking a safe. Twelve minutes in, the door swung open.

A Keira Walsh diagonal towards the back post floated over McCabe’s head; Lucy Bronze’s downward header bounced off Pattens shins and the ball fell kindly for James to drill home a composed finish.

Five minutes later, it got worse. After McCabe’s headed clearance looped outside the box, Jess Park executed a sweet volley that cannoned off Littlejohn’s arms. Finnish referee Lina Lehtovaara hesitated for a few seconds before pointing to the spot to award a penalty that few in green contested. It was the right call, and Greenwood duly slotted it home.

James was a force field, the majority of England’s positive play orbiting around.

The game sagged for a while as the Lionesses popped the ball around and Ireland grafted desperately for some territory, but a second blow arrived in the 28th minute.

Lehtovaara blew her whistle again for another spot-kick, though this one looked questionable. Louise Quinn tried to knock away a Hemp cross under heavy pressure from Russo, with the ball ricocheting onto her arm. Penalty.

Justice was done when Greenwood lashed her effort off the inside of the post. A reprieve for Ireland, who were looking increasingly frayed.

James seemed to be playing the game in slow motion, riding tackles and finding space with effortless grace. She epitomised England’s class; no panic, no complacency. They simply held Ireland arm’s length and dictated the terms on which this international derby was contested.

For the second game in succession, Gleeson made a change at half-time: on came Megan Connolly, off went Littlejohn.

McCabe – heartily booed by the away fans throughout – clattered into James as Ireland tried to rattle their rivals early in the second half. Easier said than done.

Hemp, a menace all night, scampered down the left and lashed in a wicked cross that evaded a few waiting teammates; then Wiegman flexed her bench to introduce Fran Kirby and Beth Mead.

Ireland badly needed a lift. They got it with a double sub on 61 minutes that saw Leanne Kiernan and Megan Campbell enter the fray. Almost immediately, Campbell was given the opportunity to launch in an a huge throw-in that had England troubled for the first time in the game.

The crowd responded. So did England.

James robbed Patten of possession and swung in a deep cross for Mead. Her knockdown was met on the run by Kirby, who was as stunned as everyone else in the ground to see Brosnan produce a magnificent save from point-blank range.

With Campbell on the pitch, Ireland did at least have an attacking weapon that could test England from all angles. Another one of her throws led to some panic in the area that ultimately led to Kiernan being chopped don 30 yards from goal.

McCabe clipped in a peach of a delivery, Louise Quinn steered back across goal only for Patten to fresh-air her team’s best chance of the night.

As the minutes ticked down, Ireland started to go much more direct. Hayes ghosted around the back stick to nod McCabe’s corner goalwards; then McCabe charged down a Hampton kick, sprinting on to the loose ball before lashing in a rising drive that the stopper saved.

McCabe went on one final driving run in stoppage time, lofting in a cross that floated beyond the wrong-footed O’Sullivan. And that was that.

Ireland will head for May’s clash against Sweden with plenty to ponder after a pair of testing games against two of the best teams in the world. The only way is up.

Republic of Ireland: Courtney Brosnan; Heather Payne (Leanne Kiernan 61), Caitlin Hayes, Louise Quinn, Anna Patten, Aoife Mannion; Lucy Quinn (Megan Campbell 61), Ruesha Littlejohn (Megan Connolly HT), Denise O’Sullivan, Katie McCabe (capt); Kyra Carusa (Emily Murphy 67)

England: Hannah Hampton; Lucy Bronze, Leah Williamson (capt), Alex Greenwood, Jess Carter; Jess Park (Fran Kirby 56), Keira Walsh, Ella Toone (Georgia Stanway 75); Lauren Hemp (Beth Mead 56), Lauren James (Chloe Kelly 86), Alessia Russo (Rachel Daly 86)

Referee: Lina Lehtovaara (Finland)

Attendance: 32,742

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