15 July 2013

Late heartbreak for England

Laura Bassett’s first international goal, on 89 minutes, looked as though it had earned the Three Lions a draw after Jennifer Hermoso and captain Veronica Boquete had given Spain a 2-1 lead either side of an Eniola Aluko leveller.

A header from Alexia Putellas in the fourth minute of added time consigned England to an agonising defeat in their opening match of Euro 2013.

Spain will think the victory was deserved after they fashioned more chances throughout, but it is the nature of the defeat that will hurt England far more, especially as they has twice come from behind to seemingly grab a point.

However, it is the Spanish who go away with the win, leaving England to pick themselves up ahead of Monday’s game against Russia.

There was one change to the team that lost to Sweden in the final warm-up game last week as Bassett came in at centre-back for Sophie Bradley, who was ruled out with an ankle injury.

And it was through the centre of England’s defence that Spain found a route to goal in just the fourth minute of a hectic opening.

Sonia somehow controlled Ruth Garcia’s wayward pass forward and slipped the ball in behind the England back line for her captain to latch on to. Boquete took it in her stride, moved into the box and found the corner of the net.

Unperturbed, England equalised on eight minutes and it was almost a carbon copy of the Spaniard’s goal.

Jill Scott played a low pass across to the right-hand side of the box to Aluko, who produced the coolest of finishes into the far corner to bring the scores back level. It was the Chelsea forward’s second international goal in three games, following her strike against World Cup holders Japan last month.

Powell’s charges then started to find their feet and Fara Williams forced goalkeeper Ainhoa Tirapu to turn her 25-yard shot over the bar.

Sonia, though, had looked dangerous for Spain and after intercepting a pass from Bassett she burst forward and shot into the side netting. The Barcelona attacker then forced Bardsley into a great save at her near post.

Adriana and Boquete combined towards the end of the first half, the captain laying the ball off to prolific No.10 who smashed her shot against the angle of post and bar.

Adriana had a better chance shortly after the restart but could only pull her shot wide from close range. Meanwhile Rachel Yankey, the most capped England player of all time, saw her shot blocked by Marta Torrejon when found by Ellen White’s low cross to the back post.

There was a lucky escape for England in the 74th minute when Bardsley misjudged Torrejon’s huge right-wing cross. The ball bounced over the ‘keeper, who did get a touch to it, but substitute Vicky Losada could only smash the loose ball against the bar from a matter of yards.

Karen Carney came on for Aluko with 15 minutes remaining and she played a delightful near post cross to White who guided the ball narrowly wide.

A manic finale then ensued with three goals in the final five minutes.

Firstly, Hermoso punished England for failing to properly clear a corner in the 85th minute. Steph Houghton flicked a boot at the ball in an attempt to hook it away from the back post, but it fell to Hermoso who thumped home her first international goal.

And with just one minute left on the clock, Bassett popped up to expertly guide home Yankey’s corner, via a knock-on from Anita Asante, into the far corner to seemingly earn her side a point.

But in a devastating finish, substitute Putellas reached Adriana’s left-sided cross ahead of Bardsley and nodded the ball into the net in the 94th minute.

England must regroup quickly as they face Russia, who lost 3-1 to France in Group C’s other game, on Monday.

by Glenn Lavery in Linköping 

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