England are one game away from going the entirety of 2022 unbeaten after a 4-0 victory over Japan in their penultimate match of the year.

Goals from Rachel Daly, Chloe Kelly, Ella Toone and Jess Park saw the Lionesses to a comfortable friendly victory at the Pinitar Arena on Friday evening.

England will wrap up a memorable year with an unbeaten record should they avoid defeat against Norway on Tuesday.

The Lionesses were missing a number of key players through injury and illness, giving first senior starts to youngsters Niamh Charles and Esme Morgan. However, it was familiar faces in the thick of the action from the off, Toone forcing Ayaka Yamashita into a save inside two minutes after firing towards the top corner from range. The Japan goalkeeper was equal to her effort.

Kelly was starting on the left in place of the injured Lauren Hemp, and was wreaking havoc with her ability to cut inside and deliver with her right foot. Alessia Russo should have given England the lead following one particularly superb Kelly cross, but she glanced her header onto the post.

The Lionesses were really pushing for the opener, this time B*th Mead coming close after being found by Toone and Yamashita palming her effort around the post.

The opening goal deservedly came eight minutes before the break. Another terrific Kelly cross caused chaos in the Japan box and Daly – a constant source of goals for Aston Villa this season – arrived late from right back to fire low past Yamashita.

Having been England’s primary creator in the first half, Kelly got herself on the scoresheet seven minutes into the second, crashing home Mead’s cross after it had evaded Russo.

Youngsters Lauren James and Ebony Salmon were introduced just after the hour mark, and the pair were in the thick of the action as England added a third 13 minutes from time. James provided the driving carry, before Salmon slid Toone in with a smart reverse pass, and the Manchester United midfielder found the bottom corner.

Park was introduced for her senior debut on the stroke of full time, and she marked it in dream fashion by passing the ball into an empty net after being found by Salmon. The goal was all about the endeavour and industry of Salmon to chase a seemingly lost cause, wrapping up victory for England in style.

Yui Hasegawa, Keira Walsh

Walsh is marshalled by Hasegawa / Clive Brunskill/GettyImages

GK: Mary Earps – 7/10 – Held a low Hasegawa drive in the first half, and kept hold of another strike from the Man City midfielder in the second half. Claimed a number of crosses well to ease any pressure on the England backline.

RB: Rachel Daly – 8/10 –
Not even playing at full-back could prevent her from continuing her prolific goal scoring season, giving England the lead with a low, left footed finish.

CB: Millie Bright – 7/10 – Recovered well to prevent Miyazawa getting in behind in the second half, and turned in a resilient defensive display to ensure Japan rarely threatened.

CB: Esme Morgan – 7/10 – A first start for the senior side, composed on the ball and swept up well to ensure Earps had a quiet evening. Made up an inexperienced left side of England’s defence

LB: Niamh Charles – 7/10 – Making her first senior start for England, made a great recovery tackle to halt a marauding Shimizu in the first half, and had a really good battle with the West Ham full-back throughout.

CM: Keira Walsh – 7/10 – Sent Mead scurrying in behind in the build up to England’s second with an excellent ball in behind. Characteristically cool and efficient in possession.

CM: Georgia Stanway (89′ for Park) – 6/10 – Cleverly played in Russo in the second half. Typically tenacious.

CM: Ella Toone (83′ for Parris) – 8/10 – Drew a save with a strike from range inside the opening two minutes, and fed Mead for one of England’s best opportunities in the first half. Drifted into pockets and linked play well. Coolly found the bottom corner for England’s third.

RW: B*th Mead – 7/10 – Came close to opening the scoring in the first half, but saw her effort tipped around the post. Won the ball back inside the Japan box in the build up to England’s opener, and set up her side’s second with a burst in behind and low cross.

ST: Alessia Russo (63′ for Salmon) – 6/10 – Glanced a header onto the post when she probably should have scored in the first half. Linked play neatly throughout.

LW: Chloe Kelly (63′ for James) – 9/10 – England’s most dangerous player in the first half, cutting inside and producing a selection of fabulous crosses – the second of which Russo should have buried, and the third leading to the Lionesses’ opener. Emphatically crashed home England’s second with her left foot.

SUB: Lauren James (63′ for Kelly) – 6/10 – Involved in the England goal with a driving carry.

SUB: Ebony Salmon (63′ for Russo) – 8/10 – Smartly picked out Toone for England’s third, and created England’s fourth herself with her pressure and low cross

SUB: Nikita Parris (83′ for Toone) – 6/10

SUB: Jess Park (89′ for Stanway) – N/A – On the scoresheet at the death with a simple finish for a debut goal.

SUB: Katie Zelem (89′ for Walsh) – N/A

Credit: 90min.com

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