England Women thrash Sweden 4-0 in friendly at Hartlepool

By Tony LeightonWomen's football reporter
Karen Carney
Birmingham City's Karen Carney scored twice in the 4-0 win

England produced their best display since Mark Sampson was appointed head coach last December with an impressive 4-0 win against Sweden.

Karen Carney scored the first and last goals, while debutant Fran Kirby and Lianne Sanderson were also on target.

Liverpool midfielder Fara Williams started the match to claim a record breaking 130th cap for England.

The victory at Hartlepool comes against the team ranked fifth in the world, three places above Sampson's side.

England condemned the Swedes to only their second loss in 15 meetings between the two nations.

"I've got huge belief in this team," said Sampson. "If they produce the level of performance we know they can, then they can beat anyone.

"We knew today was a big challenge, but we want to test ourselves against good opponents and the players have really stepped up to the plate.

"I was pleased with the result but, more importantly, with the quality of the performance.

"We pushed the players to play with freedom and we did that everywhere on the pitch. We got on the front foot and dominated."

Reading striker Fran Kirby, 21, produced a lively debut appearance capped by a 53rd-minute goal.

Sampson added: "Fran's a wonderful footballer, very exciting and creative.

"She could have scored with her first touch, but she grew into the game and the longer it went on the stronger she got - and her goal was a fantastic finish."

Kirby doubled England's lead after Birmingham City winger Carney had scored a dubious opener.

She scored direct from the rebound after her penalty came off the post without another player touching the ball.

The Swedish players failed to spot referee Sjoukje de Jong's mistake, although their coach Pia Sundhage vented her frustration at half-time.

There was no luck in Kirby's goal, however, her sweet strike from 15 yards flying into the far corner of the net.

England lost 4-1 to Sweden the last time they met - in a Euro 2013 warm-up match

Boston Breakers striker Sanderson added a third, forcing home from close range, and Carney completed the scoring with a curled shot into the top corner on 80 minutes.

England goalkeeper Karen Bardsley had to make only two saves, the first preventing what would have been a Carney own goal and the second from a Lotta Schelin header three minutes from time.

Next up for Sampson's team is a World Cup qualifier against Wales in Cardiff, where a draw will guarantee England's place at next year's finals in Canada.

"We may change the system against Wales," said Sampson. "But after this performance we're in a good place to go there and express ourselves again."

England (4-3-3): 1 Karen Bardsley; 2 Alex Scott, 5 Steph Houghton, 6 Lucy Bronze, 3 Demi Stokes; 4 Fara Williams (C), 7 Jordan Nobbs, 8 Karen Carney; 11 Fran Kirby, 9 Jodie Taylor, 10 Lianne Sanderson.

Substitutes: 19 Toni Duggan (for Kirby) 61, 20 Eniola Aluko (for Taylor) 61, 12 Laura Bassett (for Bronze) 71, 15 Alex Greenwood (for Stokes) 76, 18 Jill Scott (for Williams) 76. Substitutes not used: 13 Siobhan Chamberlain, 14 Gemma Bonner, 16 Jo Potter, 17 Jade Moore, 21 Carly Telford, 22 Natasha Dowie, 23 Jess Clarke.

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