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Georgia Stanway and Alessia Russo score in vital England win

Georgia Stanway opened the scoring for England (PA)
Georgia Stanway opened the scoring for England (PA)

Goals from Georgia Stanway and Alessia Russo secured England a vital 2-1 victory over France in Saint Etienne to keep the defending champions in the mix for automatic qualification to next summer’s European Championship.

The Lionesses remain third in group A3 but prevented themselves from falling further behind in the qualifying campaign after Sweden maintained their grip on second spot when they beat the Republic of Ireland 1-0 in the earlier kick-off.

A stunning strike from Stanway put the visitors ahead inside 21 minutes and Russo made it two before the break. Kadidiatou Diani halved the deficit with a second-half penalty in her 100th appearance for Les Bleues but England held on. 

With the top two in each League A group booking an automatic ticket to Switzerland, England – who have two group stage games remaining – find themselves two points behind their group-leading opponents and level on seven points with Sweden, who have the superior goal difference.

Sarina Wiegman stuck with the same line-up that suffered a 2-1 defeat to the French in Newcastle, save for Chelsea keeper Hannah Hampton starting in goal after Mary Earps was forced out with a minor hip injury.

Ella Toone earned her 50th cap while there were two changes for France boss Herve Renard, who started Grace Geyoro and Amandine Henry in place of Delphine Cascarino and Sandie Toletti.

Toone had the first real opportunity but rolled a weak effort at France keeper Pauline Peyraud-Magnin. France broke immediately, Diani just off target under pressure from England captain Leah Williamson, who was treated for what appeared to be a cut to the knee for her efforts.

The visitors released Beth Mead, who in turn picked out onrushing Arsenal club-mate Russo but the forward could only side-foot wide.

The Lionesses who kept up the positive momentum as Mead forced the French keeper into a low save.

Stanway fired England ahead inside 21 minutes after some good work from Russo and Lauren Hemp teed up the Bayern Munich midfielder, who was spot-on from 25 yards.

Peyraud-Magnin saved well to deny Russo a quick second but a pinpoint, inswinging cross from Hemp set up Russo to nod home in the 34th minute and England, looking a much-improved side from St James’ Park, pushed for more.

Amandine Henry wasted a chance to claw one back before the break, France coming close again when captain Wendie Renard headed a free-kick across goal to Marie-Antoinette Katoto who could not get the job done with her close-range header.

Hampton, who had little to do in the first half, made a sliding stop to deny Diani after the restart, when Cascarino and Toletti were reintroduced.

There were more chances for the hosts, who pounced after England gave away the ball only for Katoto to slip and fall at the edge of the area, and the visitors breathed a sigh of relief after Hampton was deemed fit to continue after treatment for a lower leg issue.

France were growing into the half, and clawed one back through Diani’s spot-kick in the 72nd minute after Williamson caught Geyoro in the area and the centurion sent Hampton the wrong way.

The England keeper preserved the win with a brilliant save from Katoto, and the visitors clung on through seven minutes of stoppage time to hand France their first competitive home defeat since 2019.