Scotland get a dream start at Women’s U19 European Championships
Scotland Women’s Under-19 side got their European Championship campaign off to the best possible start with a 2-0 victory over Belgium in Strømmen.
First half goals from Caroline Weir and Zoe Ness created history, as Scotland achieved their first ever victory in a major women’s finals. With host nation Norway drawing in the other match in Group A against the Netherlands, Scotland top the group after the first round of matches. in Strømmen were by far the coolest Scotland have experienced. The milder temperature arguably suited the Scots, but they could’ve easily been a goal behind after just four minutes, when Elke Van Gorp found herself through on goal. Thankfully for Evans’ side, the Lierse player dragged her shot just wide. Five minutes later, Scotland made sure Belgium were to rue that missed opportunity. A terrific challenge by Zoe Ness dispossessed Elien Van Wynendaele inside the Belgian penalty box. The ball landed to Chloe Arthur, who’s low cross found Caroline Weir, with the Arsenal striker making no mistake with the finish to give Scotland the lead. The early goal was exactly what Scotland needed. With confidence in full flow and belief high, the team attacked Justien Oduers goal at will. On the left wing, Lizzie Arnot was a persistent threat, while Abbi Grant was pestering the Belgian centre-halves into mistakes as the first line of defence. Belgium, however, were still dangerous when they were in possession. The Red Flames had knocked out Germany in qualifying, and nearly equalised when Lucinda Michez pressured Rachel O’Neill into a mistake. Thankfully for Scotland, the Andelecht striker’s effort blazed over the bar. That chance aside, Belgian chances were limited to set pieces, all of which were comfortably held by Hamilton goalkeeper Megan Cunningham. A sliced clearance by Clare Williamson 20 minutes in had almost given the team a route back into the match, but Cunningham was brave to smother the danger. With five minutes to go in the first half, Scotland doubled their advantage. After a scramble outside the Belgian penalty box, Abbi Grant showed tremendous strength to hold off Karen Verrydt. By keeping the centre-half at bay Grant freed up space for Zoe Ness. The Durham striker used the room fantastically, firing an effort past Odeurs off the post to score a crucial second for Scotland moments before the interval. Belgium tried their hardest to get back into the match in the second half, and much-like the first 45 minutes were particularly dangerous from set pieces. Wicked curling deliveries from Michez twice caused a scare for Scotland, both times her corners finding the head of Silke Leynen. Thankfully for Gareth Evans’ team, she failed to find the target with either attempt. At the other end, Scotland still looked lively, especially with the inclusion of the speedy Abigail Harrison replacing Zoe Ness up front in the closing stages. Her pace caused the Belgian backline trouble, yet Scotland’s best effort came from centre-midfielder Lucy Graham. Picking up the ball from 35-yards out, Graham pinged a strike which crashed off the crossbar. It would’ve capped off an excellent performance by the team on a historic night for women’s football in Scotland.
Next up for Scotland in Group A are the Netherlands on Friday in Jessheim, while Belgium face host-nation Norway.
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