Lauren James shines as England dominate Arnold Clark Cup opener

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Chelsea’s Lauren James stole the show in Milton Keynes as England began their defence of the Arnold Clark Cup with a superb start as they eased past Korea.

England are the favourites to win the Arnold Clark Cup for the second time, and as they are the highest ranked side in the tournament, boss Sarina Wiegman decided to make some changes to her usual starting XI, which saw Lauren James, who is having a brilliant season in the WSL with Chelsea, get given her opportunity as well as Jess Carter.

James definitely did not disappoint.

The 21-year-old was the standout performer for the Lionesses as not only did she win the penalty which Georgia Stanway fired home to send the Lionesses on their way to victory, she caused the Korean defence problems all game with her strength and driving runs forward and she topped off her performance by scoring her first goal for her country.

Captain Leah Williamson also made her return to the national side, but not in her usual defence role, Wiegman experimented by playing her in the holding midfield role as Keira Walsh was absent due to illness.

England dominated the game in the early stages but only had one goal to show for it thanks to Stanways emphatic penalty after 40 minutes. But, they were much quicker out the blocks in the second half, as after just 16 seconds Chloe Kelly made it to 2-0 and four minutes later, an excellent cross from Alex Greenwood found Alessia Russo, who got in front of her defender and cheekily dinked it past the Korean keeper at the front post.

James’ superb strike in the 78th minute was the icing on the cake for Sarina Wiegman’s side, and more importantly it made sure the Lionesses got their defence of the cup off to the perfect start.

Despite South Korea’s best efforts to stop the European Champions, it turned out to be a comfortable game for the Lionesses and after scoring four goals, they have moved straight to the top of the Arnold Clark Cup standings on goal difference.

In the earlier game Belgium were 2-1 victors over Italy thanks to a late winner from Tessa Wullaert.

The victory also extends England’s remarkable run under Sarina Wiegman, the squad have now gone 674 days without suffering a defeat. The result also saw number one keeper Mary Earps keep another clean sheet. This therefore puts the squad in great form as they continue their preparations ahead of the Womens World Cup in Australia and New Zealand later this year.

Wiegman’s side face Italy next in the cup in Coventry on Sunday (KO is at 3:15pm BST) before ending the tournament in Bristol against Belgium, in what could be the tournament decider depending on how they get on against South Korea.

 

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