First half goals from Lucy Bronze and Lauren Hemp secured England a 2-1 win over Scotland in their opening UEFA Women’s Nations League fixture.
Bronze headed England in front in the 39th minute from Katie Zelem’s pass after the Lionesses dominated much of the first half.
Hemp doubled England’s lead in the 45th minute from Rachel Daly’s cross which proved enough for victory, despite Kirsty Hanson netting in first-half injury-time for Scotland via the inside of the left post.
The win saw England go joint top of League A1 after Belgium stunned Netherlands 2-1 with a 93rd minute winner from Jassina Blom.
Just over a month since England’s heartbreak at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final, Sarina Wiegman made three changes as Zelem replaced the absent Keira Walsh, whilst Ella Toone and Alessia Russo were dropped for Lauren James and Chloe Kelly respectively.
Russo however failed to even make the substitutes bench for tactical reasons after featuring in Arsenal’s two UEFA Women’s Champions League First Round Qualifying Play-Offs, which ended in a shock exit on penalties to Paris FC.
England however didn’t seemed fazed by Russo’s absence as they enjoyed a high-intensity start which saw them dominate possession and win early corners, from which Georgia Stanway nodded wide in the seventh minute.
Daly then forced a tenth minute save from Scotland goalkeeper, Lee Gibson, who then saved Stanway’s 17th minute volley after Daly’s initial shot from Hemp’s cutback pass was blocked.
Up the other end, Mary Earps crucially kept the game level with a brilliant punch to block Caroline Weir’s powerful 21st minute shot towards the top-right corner.
James then saw a 24th minute shot deflected wide for a corner, from which Daly thunderously headed in from Alex Greenwood’s corner to put the Lionesses ahead, only for her goal to be ruled out due to Kelly’s offside position blocking Gibson’s view.
Scotland meanwhile continued to maximise their opportunies as Hanson broke forward in the 28th minute, yet her cross evaded the reach of Martha Thomas as it rolled across the face of goal.
Thomas then attempted a 33rd minute chipped shot but Earps was alert to save the dipping shot.
Scotland’s resistance however was broken six minutes later as Zelem found space from James’ cutback pass and whipped the ball across into the box, from which Bronze headed into the bottom-right corner to score England’s opening goal in this new competition.
England however weren’t done before half-time as Daly won possession in the 45th minute and charged up the right flank, from which her cross was calmly headed in by Hemp to double their lead.
Scotland howver refused to go into the break with a two-goal deficit and forced a slip in possession from Greenwood which fell for Claire Emslie, who played across for Hanson to slot in via the inside of the left post beyond a helpless Earps in the second minute of first-half injury-time.
After half time, England came back out on the front foot in a largely even-matched restart which saw the first chance fall in the 51st minute, as James intercepted Rachel McLauchlan but curled her shot wide of the right corner.
Scotland however weren’t fazed by that chance as Thomas flicked Hanson’s pass behind in the 56th minute in their first proper chance of the second half.
Hanson and Thomas then combined again six minutes later as Thomas headed Hanson’s cross upon goal but Earps was alert to make the save, before she then blocked a 72nd minute cross which Hanson could only smash on the rebound onto the crossbar.
Scotland continued to press and Weir pounced upon a 85th minute mistake by Zelem from which substitute, Lisa Evans teed up Christy Grimshaw whose low strike was saved by Earps.
England eventually clung on for victory over their Auld Enemy despite James seeing a late headed rebound goal ruled offside in injury-time.
England face Netherlands away in Utrecht on Tuesday 26 September in a 8pm CEST (7pm UK Time) kick-off, in a clash which sees Wiegman’s Lionesses take on her home country.
Scotland meanwhile host Belgium that same evening at 7:45pm BST at Hampden Park, Glasgow.
England: Mary Earps, Jess Carter, Millie Bright, Alex Greenwood, Lucy Bronze, Georgia Stanway, Katie Zelem, Lauren James, Chloe Kelly (Toone 59′), Rachel Daly, Lauren Hemp
Substitutes: Jordan Nobbs, Hannah Hampton, Ella Toone, Esme Morgan, Niamh Charles, Laura Coombs, Lucy Parker, Jess Park, Maya Le Tissier, Ellie Roebuck, Katie Robinson, Lucy Staniforth
Scotland: Lee Gibson, Rachel McLauchlan (Brown 86′), Sophie Howard, Rachel Corsie, Nicola Docherty, Christy Grimshaw, Samantha Kerr, Caroline Weir, Claire Emslie (Evans 83′), Martha Thomas (Gallacher 82′), Kirsty Hanson (Davidson 90′)
Substitutes: Emma Mukandi, Kirtsty MacLean, Fiona Brown, Lisa Evans, Jenna Fife, Amy Gallacher, Kelly Clark, Amy Rodgers, Lauren Davidson, Eartha Cumings, Jamie-Lee Napier
Referee: Maria Sole Ferrieri Caputi (Italy)