Cyprus Cup: England begin with easy win over Finland

By Tony LeightonWomen's football reporter
England beat Finland in Cyprus Cup
Cyprus Cup 2015 on the BBC
Host Country: Cyprus Dates: 4-12 March
Coverage: Reports on England and Scotland games, plus updates in Sportsday Live

England opened their Cyprus Cup campaign with a comfortable 3-1 Group B win against Finland.

Lianne Sanderson, Eni Aluko and Jess Clarke scored the goals - but there was a sting in the tail as Gemma Bonner was sent off a minute from time.

The Liverpool defender fouled Annika Kukkonen in the penalty area and Maija Saari converted from the spot.

Bonner is the first player to see red in the 15 months since Mark Sampson took over as head coach.

"Perhaps we were due a red card," said Sampson, after what was his 11th win in his 15 matches in charge.

"The decision was very harsh but Gemma didn't make a clear decision whether to clear the ball or pass it and she got caught.

"She'll learn from it though and, that moment apart, it was a very satisfying afternoon for us.

"We played really well - we were well organised on and off the ball, we produced some very fluent play and created a good number of chances.

"It was a bit disappointing that we didn't get more goals, but it's a winning start to the tournament and we want to keep that going."

Lianne Sanderson (left) was among the goalscorers in Cyprus
Lianne Sanderson (left) was among the goalscorers in Cyprus

England, who were runners-up to France in last year's Cyprus Cup, controlled the game from the kick-off and both Aluko and Sanderson narrowly missed the target before they got on the scoresheet.

Sanderson put Sampson's team in front after 21 minutes with a far-post header from a cross looped over goalkeeper Minna Meriluoto by left-back Alex Greenwood.

England goalkeeper Carly Telford had her first and only shot to save just before the hour mark, but it was a comfortable stop from left winger Natalia Kuikka's weak effort.

Midfielder Fara Williams then went close to a second goal for England with a 25-yard drive that flew inches above the crossbar.

But Aluko finally doubled the lead after 66 minutes when she produced a clinical finish from Clarke's cross to claim her 31st international goal.

What is the Cyprus Cup?
The tournament is held every year with 12 teams competing in three groups of four. Each team plays the other three teams in their group before a final play-off game according to their previous results. The top two teams compete in the final, with another five games taking place from a 3rd-4th place play-off down to an 11th-12th place match.

Clarke made the game safe when she converted from close range seven minutes from time after Sanderson had knocked down substitute Alex Scott's cross.

Bonner's moment of indiscretion was the only disappointment for England, who now face Australia in Friday's second group game.

Sampson said: "Australia are very athletic and physically strong, but they like to play football and so I think it will be a good game.

Eni Aluko
Chelsea forward Eni Aluko scored England's second with a cool finish

"We'll have to be at our best to beat them, but our aim is to win every game and if we're going to get through the group we'll probably have to win on Friday."

England ended the first round of games on top of their group on goal difference after Australia beat the Netherlands 1-0, Larissa Crummer scoring 17 minutes from time.

Scotland began their campaign with a defeat to Canada, conceding a goal after two minutes from Jessie Fleming then a second after half-time from Christine Sinclair.