Lauren James’ first England goal seals comfortable Arnold Clark Cup victory

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Lauren James scored her first England goal as the European champions opened their Arnold Clark Cup defence with a 4-0 victory over South Korea in Milton Keynes.

The Lionesses went in front in the 40th minute through a Georgia Stanway penalty won by James, moments after Alessia Russo had hit a shot against a post.

Chloe Kelly and Russo then scored in quick succession soon after the break before James capped her player-of-the match performance by breaking her senior England duck, the 21-year-old Chelsea forward striking past Kim Jung-mi in the 78th minute.

Stanway and substitute Katie Robinson hit the woodwork either side of that as well as Sarina Wiegman’s side produced a dominant display in their first fixture of the calendar year.

The round-robin competition’s table sees England – now unbeaten in 27 games under Wiegman with 23 wins – top on goal difference ahead of Belgium, who won 2-1 against Italy in the earlier match at Stadium MK.

Wiegman’s team continue their Arnold Clark Cup campaign, and preparations for the summer’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, by facing the Italians in Coventry on Sunday.

England’s starting line-up showed six changes from the 1-1 draw against Norway in November that concluded a memorable 2022.

England v Korea Republic – Arnold Clark Cup – Stadium MK
Chloe Kelly celebrates scoring England’s second goal (Mike Egerton/PA)

As well as Williamson donning the anti-discrimination OneLove armband, England wore black armbands in tribute to their sidelined team-mate Beth Mead’s mother June, who died in January, and the victims of the Turkey and Syria earthquakes.

The opening effort of the contest came with James firing wide in the third minute, before South Korea – managed by Englishman Colin Bell and ranked 11 places below the Lionesses at 15th in the world – brought a save out of Mary Earps soon after as Choo Hyo-joo’s strike was gathered.

A succession of England attempts followed without a breakthrough. Ella Toone sent a shot wide and saw another pushed behind by Kim, Lucy Bronze hit one too high, James had one saved at the end of a forward burst and Stanway headed over.

England then went the closest yet in the 38th minute as Russo struck a post – and moments later they had the lead, James being fouled and Brazilian referee Andreza Ferreira awarding a spot-kick that was firmly dispatched by Stanway.

The advantage was doubled in the opening minute of the second half when Kelly picked up the ball on left and sent a deflected shot past Kim from edge of the box.

Four minutes after that, England scored again, Russo meeting Alex Greenwood’s cross with a finish at the near post.

Kelly flashed a shot across goal and Stanway then hit the bar before coming off amid a flurry of England changes, for Laura Coombs, who had won her previous two caps back in 2015.

James’ impressive performance, for what was her sixth cap, was then rewarded with a goal as she whipped a shot beyond Kim, and Robinson almost made it 5-0 in the closing stages as her effort came back off the upright.

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