Georgia Allen’s second-half double secured success for England on the opening day of the women’s under 19s’ European Championships with a 2-1 defeat of Italy.
Both sides proved comfortable in possession at Lurgan’s Mourneview Park but the first half served up few scoring opportunities of note.
Italy coach Enrico Sbardelia offered constant advice from the sidelines and the first opening arrived for his side.
Allen was caught in possession and Italy attacked along the right as Sofia Del Stabile and Benedetta Glionna linked up but the break lacked support.
A measured pass by Ellie Brazil then cut open the Italy backline as Rinsola Babajide used her pace to get in behind the defence, however, the subsequent cross was blocked.
The impressive Chloe Kelly enjoyed a positive period with a dangerous cross, speculative effort and clever free-kick pass, with the latter resulting in a curling shot by Mollie Rouse from the edge of the box.
Del Stabile and Glionna combined to find space behind the England defence and goalkeeper Sandy MacIver raced out but England recovered late in the half.
England increased the pressure across the early exchanges of the second half.
Allen rolled her marker on the edge of the box but the curling attempt drifted wide of the post.
Italy goalkeeper Alessia Piazza displayed sharp reactions to scramble back and claw away the ball when Martina Lenzini’s looping header appeared on course for an own goal.
The reward arrived for England’s control, however, on 52 minutes when Brazil’s powerful run ended with an angled shot which Piazza pushed out, allowing the unmarked Allen to convert with a close-range finish into the inviting net.
Italy’s response received encouragement when centre-back Grace Fisk was on the sidelines for an extended spell due to treatment on a facial injury.
However, Italy could only produce a long-range shot which lacked power from the energetic Giada Greggi.
England’s grip on the game increased on 75 minutes with a second for Mo Marley’s players - and second for Allen.
Allen attacked the danger area from deep and was found by Brazil’s clever pass before a decisive finish.
Italy’s Annamaria Serturini produced the highlight of the afternoon on 91 minutes with a superb curling shot that found the net with pace and power.
However, England finished with the points to kick off Group B in style.
ITALY: Piazza, Merlo, Tortelli, Melia (Panzeri, 73), Caruso (Mascarello, 88), Greggi, Marinelli (Serturini, 60), Del Stabile, Regazzoli, Lenzini, Glionna.
Subs (not used): Capelletti, Cantore.
ENGLAND: MacIver, Patten, Pacheco, Rouse, Fisk (Hinds, 82), Finnigan, Kelly, Allen, Brazil (Charles, 88), Babajide (Russo, 63), Peplow.
Subs (not used): Roebuck, Cross, Wubben-Moy.
Referee: Soro (Norway).