UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009 runners-up England have a potential FIFA Women's World Cup qualifying decider with Spain next Thursday but look in good shape after last night's 3-0 defeat of Austria at Loftus Road, and debutant Ellen White was thrilled to cap the victory with a goal.
Injuries and tactical choices led England manager Hope Powell to start the Group 5 fixture with five players who did not begin the EURO final against Germany in September, but they struck early through Lianne Sanderson. Austria responded well, especially through captain Nina Aigner on her last international appearance, but White's introduction early in the second half was swiftly followed by an Eniola Aluko goal and the 20-year-old newcomer then completed the scoring late on.
"I'm really, really pleased," Leeds Carnegie LFC player White said. "Glad to get the three points and then concentrate on Spain. It's amazing – a debut and a goal, pretty overwhelming. It's brilliant. Another step up from the Under-23s. It's faster, the quality of players is tremendous and it's brilliant to be around the girls in training. I've really enjoyed it."
Powell, whose team now have three perfect wins to Spain's four, was full of praise. "She's got clear pace, she's a finisher, I think we saw that tonight," the manager said. "She clearly has ambitions to stamp her mark as she did really well.
"When someone's enthusiastic and busy it pulls everyone along so I'm really pleased for her and Claire Rafferty, who got first caps, which is great for the future. She's a tough cookie, she will run things down, works very hard. We haven't had that dimension in a centre forward before."
The injury absences of Kelly Smith – who should be available against Spain – and Karen Carney forced a reshuffle up front. Sanderson, a fringe player of late, had perhaps her best game for England operating in a withdrawn role behind striker Aluko, giving Powell an extra option for the vital Spain game, which takes place in Millwall.
"The role we asked her to play, almost as a second forward, worked in her favour," Powell said. "She created a lot, she set up Eni and Ellen White and worked hard. I'm pleased for her because she hasn't been a regular starter. There were a lot of players missing and competition for places is fierce."
Sanderson's fellow American-based forward Aluko is expected to again lead the line against Spain – who England only just pipped in EURO qualifying – and said: "We have to go in with the same attitude as tonight and give our all. Everyone wants to play in a World Cup so it's going to be tough."
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