England moved another step closer to the 2023 World Cup with a hard fought 1-0 win over Austria to make it five wins from five for the Lionesses in the qualifying campaign.
The Lionesses were fully deserving of the victory sealed by Ellen White’s 45th international goal on her 100th cap, but this was their smallest winning margin of the qualifying campaign by some distance because Austria refused to make it easy.
England had scored 32 goals without reply in their previous four qualifying matches but Sarina Wiegman’s team were frustrated for most of the first half and had to make sure they didn’t leak a goal at other end in the second half.
Austria defended doggedly and their resolve was only broken when Fran Kirby’s persistence in the penalty area resulted in the ball dropping to White in front of an open goal in the 39th minute.
England could have become agitated without that breakthrough but soon began to look more at ease, with Kirby forcing a good save from Arsenal’s Manuela Zinsberger moments before half-time.
But Austria actually started brighter after the break and even twice tested Mary Earps, who had otherwise been a spectator. One effort on the counter attack required a stunning save.
As the wind and rain picked up, England were unfortunate not to be awarded a penalty when Beth Mead was dragged down in the area. The Arsenal forward later sent a powerful effort straight at club-mate Zinsberger, while White remained a threat in and around the penalty area.
On another day, England could have scored more but Austria reaped the benefit of having a Champions League-calibre goalkeeper in Zinsberger, who also repelled Rachel Daly late on.
England player ratings
1. Goalkeeper & defenders
Mary Earps (GK) - 7/10 - Made two good saves early in the second half - one of which was outstanding - to preserve England's lead.
Rachel Daly (RB) - 7/10 - Always keen to get forward in support. Forced a late save that could have doubled England's lead.
Millie Bright (CB) - 7/10 - Captained the side in place of the absent Leah Williamson. Led well and posed a threat at set pieces.
Alex Greenwood (CB) - 6/10 - Good at playing the ball out from the back.
Demi Stokes (LB) - 6/10 - Always strong on the ball but made less of an overall impact than her counterpart on the right.
Keira Walsh (DM) - 8/10 - Primarily tasked with shielding the back four but England's dominance for the most part allowed her to occupy a high position and pick incisive forward passes.
Ella Toone (AM) - 6/10 - Had to ensure she remained defensively disciplined, particularly when Austria built some second half momentum.
Fran Kirby (AM) - 8/10 - Her refusal to give the ball up created the breakthrough goal, finding White in the six-yard box. Magical on the ball and enjoyed a good understanding with both White and Mead.
Beth Mead (RW) - 7/10 - Movement was sharp off the right flank, probably should have been awarded a penalty when she was brought down just before the hour mark. Had other chances.
Ellen White (ST) - 7/10 - Marked her 100th cap with a poacher's goal in the six-yard box. Always asking questions of the Austrian defenders.
Lauren Hemp (LW) - 6/10 - Disappointingly quiet for most of the second half after another impressive opening 45 minutes. Probably tired.
Georgia Stanway (AM) - 6/10 - Replaced Toone with just under half an hour left. Neat interplay in midfield.
Nikita Parris (RW) - 6/10 - Like for like swap for Mead and was a bright spark as she tried to stretch the Austrian defence.
Jess Carter (CB) - N/A - Sent on in stoppage time.