Hope Powell has urged her side to keep their feet on the ground after a four-star show against Italy.
FA Women’s International, in partnership with Nationwide
17 February 2005
MK Dons FC, National Hockey Stadium
England Women's coach Hope Powell has urged her side to keep their feet on the ground following a four-star show against Italy at Milton Keynes.
But she admits her team are already buzzing with confidence ahead of this summer's UEFA European Womens' Championships.
This was England's 21st game against Italy and the statistics were heavily weighted in favour of the azzure, who had won on 14 previous occasions.
Italy finished runners-up behind Euro 2005 tournament favourites Sweden in their qualifying group but they were no match for Powell's inspired side.
The England coach singled out the performance of newcomers Karen Carney and goalkeeper Josephine Fletcher. Carney netted on her debut and Fletcher oozed confidence throughout.
Powell said: "It was a fantastic performance. The younger kids did really well and that was the most pleasing thing for me.
"It was only a friendly so lets not get carried away but the hard work is starting to show at just the right time. Josephine didn't put a foot wrong all night. Their only goal was a deflection so I'm counting it as a clean sheet.
"It's just a shame you can't see all the hard work behind the scenes. We are getting stronger and we looked in much better condition than the Italians."
Rachel Yankey and Jody Handley were the star turns, the midfielders pulling the strings and running Italy ragged in an attention-grabbing show.
It was Yankey's persistence that won England an early free-kick 30 yards out.
Sloppy defending meant Italy only half-cleared the danger, allowing Fara Williams to drill a long-range half-volley past Carla Brunozzi.
Williams said: "Our recent performances are showing we can finally get results against the big teams. It's just good to keep winning and building the confidence going into the Euros."
Within three minutes England had doubled their lead, persistence from Amanda Barr and Emily Westwood setting up Handley for a simple tap-in.
Williams turned provider to set up England's third, Barr chased down her through ball, rounded the goalkeeper and fired into an empty net.
With the game providing vital intelligence for this summer's championships, Powell made several half-time changes, replacing Barr and Handley with Eniola Aluko and Carney.
And it took the two subs just 19 minutes to make their mark.
The speedy Aluko outpaced a static defence before rolling the ball to an unmarked Carney, who finished at the second attempt to mark her debut in style.
Carney said: "I've only been in the set-up for three months but this game gave me so much confidence. I fluffed the first chance but it came back thankfully. I hit it low and it just flew in - I didn't know what to do."
Fletcher had had a flawless but quiet night in the England goal before Deiana Damiana's free-kick took a deflection and gave Italy a consolation they did not deserve.