England beat Austria 1-0 in front of a record Women’s European Championship attendance of 68,871 to kick-start their Euro 2022 campaign in the ideal fashion.
Beth Mead’s first-half goal was the difference between the two sides on a memorable night for women’s football.
Euro 2022 has been the most anticipated women’s football tournament of all-time and England’s opening match is one of many games to have sold out.
A record Women’s Euros crowd was expected in Manchester and it duly delivered as almost 70,000 packed the Theatre of Dreams.
The sound of drums blasted around the stadium and the noise was deafening every time England launched an attack.
When Mead scored to break the deadlock, the roof almost fell off Old Trafford and there was an overwhelming feeling that this could be the start of an unforgettable summer.
Fans laud ‘incredible’ atmosphere
Fara Williams, the Lionesses’ most capped player ever, tweeted: “Wow the atmosphere in Old Trafford!!”
Meanwhile, Man United men’s captain Harry Maguire, who attended the game, wrote: “A winning start – What an atmosphere at Old Trafford. Well done @Lionesses.”
Many others echoed this same sentiment: with one adding: “What an incredible atmosphere here at Old Trafford tonight. Exactly what the team, the tournament and the women’s game deserves.”
Some acknowledged the growth of the women’s game and how far it has come since the last European Championships five years ago.
“It’s incredible how far women’s football has come since I last watched it,” said one fan. “A packed-out Old Trafford and a spine-tingling atmosphere. Unimaginable maybe even five years ago.”
A dream goal for Mead
It felt almost inevitable that it would be Mead to get the winner.
The England forward enjoyed an outstanding season for Arsenal and has been in scintillating goal-scoring form for England recently.
Mead has scored 14 times for the Lionesses since Wiegman took over, but none have been more important than this one.
It was a fine finish from the in-form winger, who collected Fran Kirby’s inch-perfect ball over the Austria defence and deftly chipped the keeper.
The ball did initially appear to have been cleared, yet goal-line technology prevailed and showed the ball did indeed cross the line.
What’s next for England?
England will be pleased to have taken all three points, but there is no doubt room for improvement.
The attack was far from clinical and the midfield was sloppy in possession at times.
Next up is Norway –– a side boasting the impressive duo of Ada Hegerberg and Caroline Graham Hansen.
Many experts have tipped Norway to go far and they are expected to provide a much sterner test than Austria managed.
But if the crowd in Manchester is anything to go by, England will know they have the advantage in any game they play.
The first job has been completed. Now on to the next one.