View: Aston Villa women striker Rachel Daly puts on finishing clinic for Lionesses v Italy
Rachel Daly translated her flying Aston Villa form onto the international stage as she netted a match-winning brace for the Lionesses against Italy in the Arnold Cup.
A pair of headers from Villa’s top scorer was enough for Sarina Wiegman’s side to edge out their opponents 2-1 in the Arnold Cup on Sunday (19 February) and furthered calls for Daly to be given the permanent No.9 shirt for her country this year at the World Cup.
Daly was named as England’s starting centre-forward on Sunday – despite playing as left back in the winning Euro 2022 campaign – largely thanks to her scintillating form for Aston Villa, which has seen her score ten goals from just 13 games this season.
Carla Ward’s summer signing broke the deadlock after 31 minutes as she slipped between the Italian centre-halves to divert a well-taken header into the bottom right corner of the net.
The Villa forward popped up with another crucial intervention in the second half after Italy had levelled proceedings, as she headed home her second goal of the afternoon. This match-winner was one for those centre-forward purists.
Despite Lauren James’ cross being well directed, it lacked the proper pace to be able to carve open a chance from, but Daly didn’t care. Leaping highest once again, the former Houston Dash player glanced her header into the far corner of Italy’s net brilliantly.
Speaking live on commentary for ITV (20 February, 17:25), former England striker Eniola Aluko gushed over the finishing clinic Daly had put on for fans at the Coventry Building Society Arena.
She said: “Rachel Daly is good in the air. She had so much to do for her second goal. The neck work to direct that was impressive.
“I think Daly is staking her claim to be the starting number nine. Alessia Russo is pushing her, but it’s really interesting what’s happening in this battle because they can both score.”
Daly’s form for both Aston Villa and England has left one nagging question on the brains of every fan. Daly or Russo to start as the Lionesses No.9?
The answer could well lie in how both players finish the WSL season with their clubs and who holds the best form when the World Cup comes around in July. Daly currently holds the superior record with ten goals to Russso’s five in the WSL this season, but the Manchester United players’ quality was highlighted by Arsenal’s rejected world record bid for the 24-year-old in the January transfer window.
Either way, Daly’s blistering form for England has certainly put Ward’s Aston Villa side as ones to watch in the coming years. With the 31-year-old leading the line, Villa have arguably one of the best players in the world right now.
In other Aston Villa news, the club want to reunite with a former player for a fee in excess of £40million in the summer.