Alessia Russo came off the bench to turn in a player of the match performance for England during their 5-0 victory over Northern Ireland on Friday evening, netting two goals within eight minutes of entering the fray.
The Lionesses’ progression to the Euro 2022 knockout stages as group winners had already been ensured prior to kick off, but England signed off their group stage campaign in style with a thumping win over the tournament debutants.
Russo headed home Beth Mead’s cross for her side’s third with her first touch after being brought on for Ellen White at half time, before netting the goal of the game with a fabulous piece of individual skill.
The Manchester United forward received the ball from her club teammate Ella Toone, spun past the Northern Ireland backline with a magnificent turn and slammed the ball confidently past Jackie Burns.
“I can’t really remember it too much to be honest,” Russo recalled. “I know Tooney slipped me in – a great ball – and then luckily my first touch set me on for the goal.”
The telepathic link up play between Toone and Russo has been something Manchester United fans have become accustomed to seeing on a weekly basis in the WSL.
“Obviously me and Alessia have a great connection on and off the pitch and we play at club together and I know where she is and what she likes,” added Toone. “I’ve seen her in a bit of space and she did the rest – I’ve passed it to her and she did the rest, so [it was] all Alessia.”
Russo could have capped a memorable night with a hat-trick, but blazed over from six yards with arguably her easiest opportunity of the evening after being picked out by Mead.
“I think that one will stay in my head a little bit longer than the two goals to be honest,” Russo said with a wry smile. “Beth threaded a ball through the eye of a needle and unfortunately I couldn’t convert it.”
The depth of England’s squad has been heralded as one of their biggest strengths this summer. Competition is particularly fierce in the Lionesses’ forward line, and all of Russo’s opportunities at Euro 2022 have come from the bench. She acknowledged this is just part of the parcel of football.
“Tournament football’s tough and team football’s tough; unfortunately there’s only 11 spaces in the team,” the 23-year-old said. “But I think the competition’s so high in training and we just work hard and whether you’re starting on the bench you just try and push the 11 to go out and get the result and if you’re called upon you’re ready.
“I just love playing for England so every chance I get I just want to go out there and enjoy it. But at the same time at a major tournament like this I want to try and put in good performances and help the team with goals and assists and work up front, so yeah just go on and try and do what I can do.”