England Hit Latvia for 20 in Breathless Win

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When England manager Sarina Wiegman said before kick-off that she expects her team to score more than the ten they hit in the away leg against Latvia, that stood out as an almighty challenge to set her team. As it turned out, she probably ought to have asked for 20. And even then, she would have got her wish. On a breezy night at the Keepmoat Stadium in Doncaster, the Lionesses set to work as their relentlessness brought them their biggest ever win. The visitors were all but spectators as Wiegman’s team tore them apart. After 23 minutes, England were already 6–0 up.

Before tonight, England had taken a mindboggling 40 shots per game in their first five World Cup qualifiers. They continued that trend with their most seismic victory in the group yet. Wiegman spoke to EnglandFootball.org after the 10–0 win over the Latvians in Liepāja last month. “Sometimes we were a little sloppy,” she admitted, agreeing with Chelsea manager Emma Hayes who had said on commentary that she felt the Lionesses were overthinking their decisions and having too much time on the ball. “We need to be sometimes a little tighter on the ball,” said Wiegman.

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A month later, they put that right here. There were only three changes from the side that beat Austria 1–0 in Sunderland on Saturday and it showed. The Lionesses won the game in the first nine minutes.

Lauren Hemp crossed for Beth Mead to tap home within three minutes, before Ellen White scored a lovely goal — curling the ball precisely into the top right corner. Postage stamp stuff, and a goal that tied White level with Kelly Smith on 46 international goals as the nation’s all-time top scorer.

Would she pull away from Smith and break the record outright? Yes — and it only took her another three minutes to do so. The energetic Mead played the ball in for White to apply the finish. After a roar of emotion and congratulations from her teammates, she had a moment to herself where she threw her head into her hands, relieved and visibly emotional at her astonishing achievement.

So it was already the Ellen White show, but it became an England masterclass within a matter of moments. Mead swivelled away from her marker well on the right and unleashed a powerful drive across the goalkeeper Laura Siņutkina and in. Then Georgia Stanway of Manchester City, excellent throughout, darted to the byline before digging out the cross. There unmarked in the middle was Lauren Hemp, who belted a header down and in to finally notch her first England goal. 18 minutes played and it was already 5–0.

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Not six minutes later, Mead was on the scoresheet again as she arrived late to nod in the sixth. A hat-trick already. The first lull of the game — and it was barely a lull — brought out the Mexican wave from the fans at the near-packed Keepmoat Stadium. It was a sign of the sort of contest (or non-contest) England were in. These handsome whippings are fun while they last, but much tougher, sterner tests lie ahead for the Lionesses in February. It’s important to remember that.

Anyhow, Ella Toone found herself on the scoreboard on 42 minutes as she fired in from range. Then Mead crossed for Hemp to steal in with a close-range header. Hemp had her second international goal and her second in this game. At half-time, England led by just the eight.

Latvia’s goalkeeper Siņutkina was remarkably born in 2003, and what was harshest of all was her substitution at the interval. Would her replacement Alīna Skļemenova fair any better? England made sure the answer to that was a resounding NO. To be fair, Skļemenova was born in 2004 and aged just 17.

As the clock ticked past 48 minutes, Ellen White was back scoring. The keeper got a piece of it but couldn’t deny her yet another England hat-trick. 48 minutes, 48 England goals for Ellen White. Mead won a penalty soon after, which White unselfishly handed to Stanway. The mercurial midfielder slotted home calmly for ten.

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Substitute Jess Carter enjoyed one of the nicest moments of the night when she scored her first international goal, four years after her last England cap. Stanway set her up, claiming her sixth assist of the night.

Alessia Russo and Jill Scott came off the bench for the final thirty minutes. Scott was no sooner on than a goalscorer. Beth England belatedly got her goal when she planted a header in for 12, and the 13th followed shortly after when Scott scored what felt like exactly the same goal.

Katie Zelem of Manchester United came on for her England debut, before another record was broken. Russo joined Carter and Scott as goalscoring subs when she came flying in with a well-met header. England were 14–0 up and already had their biggest ever win. They would go on to blow the doors of that record.

Having not previously scored for England before, Lauren Hemp will have felt on top of the world as she dribbled in from the right flank and unleashed an unstoppable drive into the top corner to complete her hat-trick. She could be such a crucial player in tournaments to come for the Lionesses.

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Jordan Nobbs’s return was met with cheers, but there was a louder reception when her precise finish made her England’s fourth goalscorer from the bench on the night. Russo claimed her second and the team’s 17th with another header on 81 minutes. It was clear what the target was now.

Barely 60 seconds later, Russo completed her own hat-trick following a dreadful sliced clearance by the goalkeeper Skļemenova. The ball spun up for Russo to nod into an empty net. Beth England’s second of the night followed shortly after, before Lauren Hemp hit her fourth — a remarkable tally for the 21-year-old wide player — and England somehow had 20 goals in a single international.

Nobbs said she wasn’t thinking about what England might be able to achieve at the Euros and World Cup when speaking to EnglandFootball.org this week. “We’re taking each game as it comes, fully focused on improving as a team and playing well as a team, and being in the best possible shape for when we get there.”

The opponents are extremely limited at the moment, but England are to be fair in decent-enough shape. England had never scored 14 in an official match before tonight. Against Latvia in Doncaster, they struck a magnificent 20.

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