BIRMINGHAM: Jodie Taylor grabbed a hat-trick as England destroyed Scotland in the ‘Battle of Britain’, easing to a dominant win in the Netherlands for a perfect start to their Euro 2017 campaign.
This was a real message of intent from Mark Sampson’s side, as they claimed their first opening-game win in a major tournament for 12 years and showed just why they are considered by many as one of the favourites.
Ellen White, Jordan Nobbs and Toni Duggan also got on the scoresheet as England blew Scotland away in the first half, with striker Taylor showing ice-cold nerves and a predatory instinct in front of goal.
The tests will get much harder for England, with Spain set to come on Sunday, but Sampson will be delighted with how his side started in Utrecht.
The head coach opted to leave out Barcelona-bound striker Duggan and veteran midfielder Fara Williams – preferring to opt for the exciting forward partnership of Fran Kirby and Jodie Taylor.
That meant exciting Chelsea midfielder Mille Bright continued to play alongside captain Steph Houghton at the heart of a defence that conceded just once en route to qualifying for the tournament.
England settled quickly and hit the front in the tenth minute as Fran Kirby, described a mini Lionel Messi, flicked a quick pass through for Taylor to latch onto – and the striker coolly slipped it past Gemma Fay.
Scotland held their own in the aftermath, sucking up England’s pressure, while they also caused a few problems from set-pieces and down either wing, with Lisa Evans and Fina Brown particularly dangerous.
But England just had too much, and they stretched their lead mid-way through the half as Taylor stroked a bouncing ball into the corner after Scotland failed to deal with a Jordan Nobbs free-kick.
England’s tails were up and Kirby, along with Nobbs, were picking holes in Scotland’s five-strong midfield with clever movement and vision.
And White slotted in the third minutes later after Jill Scott cannoned the bar, with a neat side-foot finish into the bottom corner as the rebound fell perfectly for her inside the box.
But the night belonged to Taylor and she completed her hat-trick after the break, with White flicking on a long pass expertly into the striker’s path and, although Fay darted out of goal, her lob was perfectly judged.
Taylor and White were brought off shortly after as Sampson cast his mind to Sunday’s battle with Spain – where victory would ensure their safe and smooth progress into the quarter-finals.
England’s tempo noticeably slowed with the match won, but Nobbs crowned a superb display with a crashing volley from inside the box – before Duggan flicked in late on.