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England 6-1 Belgium: Rampant Lionesses retain Arnold Clark Cup
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Phil Medlicott
Press Association
Chloe Kelly was at the double as England hammered Belgium
Chloe Kelly was at the double as England hammered Belgium

Chloe Kelly and skipper Leah Williamson notched a brace apiece as England completed a successful defence of the Arnold Clark Cup by thrashing Belgium 6-1 at Ashton Gate.

Needing only to avoid defeat to retain the trophy, the Lionesses took the lead via Kelly in the 12th minute following good work by Lauren James, before Williamson’s header doubled the advantage in the 42nd minute.

Kelly then put dominant England three goals up five minutes into the second half, making the most of the opportunity when goalkeeper Nicky Evrard spilled Ella Toone’s shot. 

While the Manchester City forward, England's match-winner in last summer's Euro 2022 final, fell just short of a hat-trick after seeing a further effort clip the bar, she finishes as the tournament's leading scorer with three goals. 

After picking up her Arnold Clark golden boot, 25-year-old Kelly said: "It's great to win it but I didn't even realise. 

"It is a good achievement but I think the team has been brilliant and we keep moving forward. 

"It was a great team performance and that is what tonight means.

"It is very special to be part of an amazing group of staff and players and the performance on the pitch shows how incredible we are. This is a massive step going forward."

England skipper Leah Williamson lifts the Arnold Clark Cup
England skipper Leah Williamson lifts the Arnold Clark Cup

There was also a 78th-minute Julie Biesmans own goal and late finishes from Lucy Bronze and Williamson, either side of Elena Dhont’s reply for Belgium, as England made it three wins from three outings in the round-robin tournament and 25 in 29 games unbeaten overall under Sarina Wiegman. 

The Lionesses finish three points clear of the Belgians at the top of the final Arnold Clark Cup table, with Italy third after beating South Korea 2-1. 

Yet while Wiegman was happy to see her side retain the trophy, she admits there is still room for improvement. 

The England boss, 53, said: "It's very nice to win. It was a good game with lots of goals but we conceded one and we didn't like that.

"But we played well all over the pitch and it was good preparation for the team. 

"Chloe is in good form, she is very dangerous when we get in the final third. She scored two goals and that is good for the team and good for her. 

"I think we are in a good place. The team is really strong and the depth is really good. 

"But we know we have to step up more because the World Cup will be more of a challenge."

Chloe Kelly scored twice in England’s 6-1 win over Belgium (Nick Potts/PA)
Chloe Kelly scored twice in England’s 6-1 win over Belgium (Nick Potts/PA)

Reflecting on a successful tournament, former England defender Gilly Flaherty said: "I think they will be disappointed with the goal they conceded [tonight] because clean sheets will be something they pride themselves on.

"But they have scored goals and there has been a number of fantastic performances. 

"That starting XI will be pretty close to the one that will start at the World Cup. 

"Lauren Hemp will be close to it and Fran Kirby will come back as well but I think all the players who have played at this tournament have done themselves proud."

Arsenal legend Ian Wright added: "I don't think there is a weakness in this side. With Rachel Daly and Alessia Russo, we have two different No9s. 

"Georgia Stanway is getting better and better — going to Germany has been brilliant for her. 

"We've got the rocks of Millie Bright and Williamson. We've got so much going for us in this squad. We can go to the World Cup knowing we're favourites. 

"We just need to make sure we go out there and be confident because it's going to be tough to beat us."

While Kelly finished as top scorer, team-mate James was named player of the tournament. 

Singing the Chelsea star's praises, former Lioness Eniola Aluko said: "You don't see players like Lauren come around very often. 

"She is such a joy to watch. She hasn't played 90 minutes in every game but has definitely made an impact and fully deserves the award."

Having started the calendar year in fine style, Wiegman's European champions will next be in action in April with clashes against Brazil at Wembley and Australia at Brentford's Gtech Community Stadium as preparations continue ahead of the World Cup.

The tournament in Australia and New Zealand starts on July 20 and sees England in Group D with China, Denmark and Haiti, who secured their place with a 2-1 play-off victory over Chile.


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