England began their final preparations for Euro 2022 with victory over Belgium as Chloe Kelly impressed on her return to the international stage.
Manchester City winger Kelly, who suffered a serious knee injury and last played for England a year ago, came off the bench and had a shot deflected in for the opener.
Rachel Daly’s volley made it 2-0 and Leah Williamson’s powerful strike went in via the crossbar and the head of Belgium keeper Nicky Evrard for a third late on as England eventually capitalised on their dominance.
Victory at Molineux marked the first of three friendlies for England before the Euros.
Sarina Wiegman’s side, who remain unbeaten under her management, were comfortably the better team in Wolverhampton but failed to take numerous chances in the first half.
Georgia Stanway, Williamson and Lauren Hemp all came close before substitute Kelly showed a burst of pace to beat the full-back and her powerful strike was deflected heavily into the bottom corner.
Daly, also on as a second-half substitute, pounced on a loose ball from a corner to double England’s lead and they moved further clear when Williamson smashed a rebound in off the keeper.
Belgium rarely troubled England but did come close in the first half when Feli Delacauw was unmarked as she sliced it wide of the far post.
The hosts, who play their first match of the Euros against Austria at Old Trafford on 6 July, wore black armbands as a tribute to Wiegman’s sister, who died earlier this month.
For their final pre-tournament friendlies, they take on defending European champions the Netherlands at Leeds’ Elland Road on Friday, 24 June before travelling to Switzerland on Thursday, 30 June.
England still craving ruthlessness
Wiegman admitted this week England still needed to be more ruthless in front of goal in their final preparations for the Euros and they were missing that clinical edge again in the first half.
The Lionesses had 25 shots in total, with 10 on target – but only converted three into goals, which will be a slight concern.
England will not expect to have as many opportunities against teams such as Norway, who are in their group at the Euros, so will need to show more ruthlessness.
They were not short of creativity, though – Stanway looked dangerous when carrying the ball from midfield, Beth Mead linked up well with both Lucy Bronze and Williamson on the right, while Hemp was unpredictable on the left.
While those chances are still being created, Wiegman will feel confident in England’s ability to eventually get the job done.
Kelly’s introduction was a pleasing sign too – she has looked sharp since her return for Manchester City at the end of the season just completed, and if she is closer to full fitness by the time the tournament comes around, she will be a significant threat.
‘Wiegman is a perfectionist’ – reaction
England winger Chloe Kelly to ITV: “It couldn’t [have gone better]. It was brilliant to be back out there.
“I said from the start I wanted to be at the Euros. I worked hard each day.
“Sarina [Wiegman] told me to be an attacking player, to get balls in the box and enjoy myself. I tried to get my player one v one and enjoyed every minute of being out there.”
Former England defender Anita Asante on BBC Radio 5 Live: “It has been a good test. England had to work hard to break Belgium down and the substitutes had to make the impact.
“You see the cohesiveness in the side. It is great momentum going into the next two friendlies before going into the Euros. Sarina Wiegman will be impressed with the display and a positive performance; now it is about tweaking the fine details.”
Ex-England defender Laura Bassett on BBC Radio 5 Live: “The Lionesses would have put pressure on themselves to win because they are expected to win. Did we see entries into the box? Yes. Did we see shots on goal? Yes. Did we see bits that need refining? Yes. There are a lot more positives than negatives.
“The clean sheet was huge and England got tested in possession. They will be tested in other ways against the Netherlands. Sarina Wiegman is a perfectionist and will be asking if we can get to the next level.”
- 2BronzeBooked at 49mins
- 6Wubben-MoySubstituted forGreenwoodat 45′minutes
- 3StokesSubstituted forDalyat 45′minutes
- 7MeadSubstituted forKellyat 45′minutes
- 10StanwaySubstituted forKirbyat 61′minutes
- 11HempSubstituted forParrisat 81′minutes
- 9WhiteSubstituted forEnglandat 61′minutes
- 19KeesSubstituted forTisonat 45′minutes
- 18De NeveSubstituted forTysiakat 45′minutes
- 2PhiltjensSubstituted forMissipoat 61′minutes
- 5WijnantsSubstituted forVangheluweat 73′minutes
- 20BiesmansSubstituted forVanmechelenat 73′minutes
- 7DelacauwSubstituted forDhontat 61′minutes
- 6De Caigny
- 14Van Kerkhoven
- Sara Persson
Match ends, England 3, Belgium Women 0.
Second Half ends, England 3, Belgium Women 0.
Corner, England. Conceded by Charlotte Tison.
Attempt saved. Davinia Vanmechelen (Belgium Women) header from the centre of the box is saved in the top centre of the goal. Assisted by Tessa Wullaert with a cross.
Offside, Belgium Women. Tessa Wullaert tries a through ball, but Elena Dhont is caught offside.
Own Goal by Nicky Evrard, Belgium Women. England 3, Belgium Women 0.
Leah Williamson (England) hits the bar with a right footed shot from the centre of the box following a corner.
Attempt blocked. Nikita Parris (England) header from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Alex Greenwood with a cross.
Corner, England. Conceded by Amber Tysiak.
Substitution, England. Nikita Parris replaces Lauren Hemp.
Attempt saved. Bethany England (England) header from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Lauren Hemp with a cross.
Attempt missed. Elena Dhont (Belgium Women) left footed shot from the centre of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Tessa Wullaert.
Attempt missed. Tessa Wullaert (Belgium Women) right footed shot from the centre of the box is too high. Assisted by Elena Dhont.
Attempt missed. Leah Williamson (England) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Chloe Kelly.
Foul by Chloe Kelly (England).
Laura Deloose (Belgium Women) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Belgium Women. Jody Vangheluwe replaces Sarah Wijnants.
Substitution, Belgium Women. Davinia Vanmechelen replaces Julie Biesmans.
Attempt missed. Bethany England (England) header from the centre of the box is just a bit too high. Assisted by Lauren Hemp with a cross.
Goal! England 2, Belgium Women 0. Rachel Daly (England) left footed shot from the centre of the box to the top left corner following a corner.