England buckle under pressure

Italy 2 England 1

England's woman footballers suffered a blow to their European Championship ambitions, being defeated 2-1 in their Group Three match with Italy on Saturday in front of 3,000 fans in Cosenza, Calabria.

The Italians dominated the match, but found themselves a goal down just before the break, Kelly Smith scoring against the run of play with a shot from six yards after good work from Tara Proctor and Hope Powell. It was the 17-year-old's second international goal in four years.

Italy came back strongly after half-time and English resistance buckled after two goals, both of which followed defensive mistakes.

Antonella Carta scored the first from 10 yards on 50 minutes. The Italian captain, Cardina Morace - the world's leading scorer with 90 international goals - grabbed the second nine minutes later when she found herself with only the goalkeeper to beat.

England, lacking the striking prowess of Swedish-based Karen Farley and the Liverpool midfielder Karen Burke who were both injured, have two games remaining.

They are away to Croatia on 20 April and at home to Portugal on 19 May. If England finish second in the group it would mean a play-off with a third-placed country from another group for a place in the quarter-finals.

GROUP THREE WOMEN'S

EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP

P W D L F A Pts

Italy 4 3 1 0 12 2 10

England 4 2 1 1 12 3 7

Portugal 3 1 0 2 2 7 3

Croatia 3 0 0 3 0 13 0

Goals: Smith (42) 0-1; Corta (50) 1-1; Morace (59) 2-1.

ENGLAND (3-4-1-2): Cope (Millwall Lionesses); Williams (Arsenal), Easton (Liverpool), Powell (Croydon); Marley (Everton), Coultard (Doncaster Belles), Proctor, Bampton (both Croydon); Walker (Doncaster Belles); Davis (Croydon), Smith (Wembley). Substitutes: Harwind (Wembley) for Marley, 50; Mapes (Croydon) for Easton, 72; Exley (Doncaster Belles) for Davis, 79.

ITALY: Brenzan (Torres); Tessa , Bauagnoli (both Verona), Lozzelli (Agliana), Cordenos (Lugo), D'Astalfo (Fiammamonza), Zorri (Lazio), Correra (Torino), Morace (Verona), Carta (Lugo), Guarino (Fiammomonza). Substitute: Salmaso (Verona) for Zorri, h-t.

Attendance: 3,000.

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