ECONOMY

Scintillating Mead hat-trick sees Lionesses win on Wembley return


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scintillating 14-minute hat-trick from Beth Mead helped England mark their return to Wembley with a win over Northern Ireland in Saturday evening’s World Cup Qualifier.

The Arsenal forward needed only a few seconds on the pitch to get off the mark following her introduction just after the hour mark with an acrobatic hooked finish and would add two more to her tally in a second-half turnaround.

Another substitute, Bethany England, scored the Lionesses’ second, with a touch on the line to ensure the ball went into the back of the net.

Mead then scored at the back post before tapping the ball into an empty net in the 78th minute to bring up her hat-trick.

It was the first competitive fixture for the Lionesses at England’s national stadium since Wembley reopened in 2007, but it was viewed by a disappointing 23,225, significantly lower than the 30,000 the Football Association had been expecting for the fixture.

However, the result ensures England remain top of the group, with their lowest number of goals of the campaign so far after thrashing North Macedonia 8-0 and knocking 10 past Luxembourg as they brought Northern Ireland’s eight-game winning run in competitive fixtures to an end.

England dominated the early period and had multiple shots blocked while Northern Ireland struggled to get out of their half.

Ellen White had an opportunity to close the gap to Kelly Smith’s international goal record when a clearance from goalkeeper Burns was straight at the number nine, but her shot lacked direction and was easily parried behind by the goalkeeper.

Lauren Hemp hit the crossbar after cutting in from the left wing and defender Alex Greenwood also had a strike from range hit the woodwork but Northern Ireland kept their shape in defence and made it difficult for the home side.

The visitors defended resolutely to ensure the game stayed level at the break despite 17 shots from England.

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