Lauren Hemp and Georgia Stanway notched a brace apiece as England came close to qualifying for the 2023 Women’s World Cup with a 5-0 victory in Northern Ireland.
Ellen White scored midway through the first half only to have her effort ruled out for offside, but Hemp’s mistimed goal went into the net in the 25th minute as England took the initiative.
The Lionesses’ lead was doubled by Ella Toone seven minutes after the break, while Hemp got her second at the hour mark before Stanway added sparkle to the scoreboard with a late double.
A commanding victory in front of a superb attendance of 15,348 at Windsor Park in Belfast keeps England five points clear of Austria at the top of Group D with just two games remaining.
England have now won all eight qualifying matches, scoring 68 goals and conceding none in the process.
Simply avoiding defeat against Austria in their penultimate qualifier in September will be enough to send Sarina Wiegman’s side to Australia and New Zealand for next year’s World Cup.
Northern Ireland, meanwhile, who had just 25 per cent of possession and managed just one lone shot on goal in contrast to their opponents’ 24 attempts, look set to miss out on a trip to Oceania.
Northern Ireland had to regret Friday’s 3-1 loss to Austria, which extended its lead over Kenny Shiels’ side to six points on Tuesday with an 8-0 thrashing of Latvia at the Wiener Neustadt.
So the hosts couldn’t afford to lose any more ground to their rivals and welcomed an offside flag after White scored on the rebound after Jackie Burns saved Beth Mead’s shot.
But they fell behind three minutes later in curious circumstances when Toone’s cross from the left was intercepted by Hemp, who didn’t appear to connect cleanly, but the ball was deflected into the far post.
Capping off the victory with his second of the night! — Lionesses (@Lionesses) April 12, 2022
It was nothing less than what England deserved and although Northern Ireland were able to keep the deficit to a single goal at interval, the floodgates opened in the second half.
White came close to getting on the scoreboard after the restart before Toone did so with a serene finish to the first half after Lucy Bronze worked her way into the box before cutting.
Northern Ireland came close to an immediate response, but Lauren Wade was denied by Mary Earps before Hemp slammed the door on an unlikely comeback after going around Burns and into an empty net.
The industrious Toone then made her way into the area in the 70th minute and selflessly set up Stanway to shoot past Burns.
Nine minutes later, the thrashing was complete with Stanway back on target after a backwards cross header prompted the Manchester City midfielder to react quickly to shoot and the ball went in.
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