England women began their World Cup qualifying campaign with a comprehensive 6-0 victory over Russia at Prenton Park.
Nikita Parris and Jody Taylor put the Lionesses’ two goals up inside fifteen minutes, before the visitors were reduced to ten after Ksenia Tsybutovic was dismissed for handball after receiving her second yellow.
Jordan Nobbs and Lucy Bronze netted further goals before the break, giving Mark Sampson’s side full advantage, before a second half brace from Toni Duggan sealed the win.
Chelsea forward, Fran Kirby, missed a first half penalty, but was involved in three of the Lionesses’ first half goals after setting up Nobbs, before Bronze struck from the edge of the box before the break.
England, who still face Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kazakhstan and Wales, came out as forceful in the second half as they did in the first. New Barcelona signing, Duggan, finished off a terrific team move before curling home England’s fifth of the evening, before netting her second and the Lionesses’ sixth.
Not only the convincing performance on the field, but the evidence of the squad surrounding Sampson following a turmoil week for the head coach was evident to see.
Sampson, who had been in the headlines following allegations from Chelsea striker Eniola Aluko of bullying and harassment, which he denies, was involved in the celebrations after Parris poked home the opener.
After Parris opened the scoring, herself and the team all celebrated with the under pressure boss, claiming it was a suitable symbol of the support she feels from Sampson.
“I think it’s important that I get my point across, which is that I wasn’t involved in it, I wasn’t in the squad at the time,” she said in reference to the alleged incidents of racism involving Sampson.
“In my experience of being in the squad, I feel valued and supported and the whole team feels that way, so our celebration was a fitting celebration.”
Sampson said he “didn’t foresee” being mobbed in the dugout, adding: “It’s not something that is usual.”
“We’ve really preached team togetherness and support for your team-mates since I’ve come through the door,” he added.