England women shrug off red card to clinch World Cup place

Switzerland 2 England 3 <i>(England win 5-2 on aggregate)</i>
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The Independent Online

England booked a place at next year's women's World Cup finals with a second-leg victory over Switzerland last night that was only marred by the sending-off of goalkeeper Rachel Brown. The success in Wohlen wrapped up a 5-2 aggregate success, after Hope Powell's team had won the first leg in Shrewsbury 2-0 last week.

An early chance to calm the nerves went begging when Kelly Smith – England's all-time leading goalscorer – missed a 12th-minute penalty. Smith won the spot-kick, going down under a challenge from Rahel Graf, but dragged her effort wide.

She almost made amends, though, when she chipped a 30-yard effort goalwards which beat Marisa Brunner in the Swiss goal but hit the bar. Brown produced a good save at her near post from Selina Zumbuhl's snap shot, but Smith finally righted the wrong of her missed penalty 13 minutes before half-time, tapping in from close range after Eniola Aluko had failed to convert a cross from Alex Scott.

It was 2-0 two minutes later when Aluko beat Brunner with a low shot after a flowing England move with Smith at it heart which put the visitors 4-0 up on aggregate. However, the Swiss were given hope just before half-time. First, Ramona Bachmann pulled a goal back with a shot from the edge of the area, the ball creeping over the line before Scott could clear.

There was then a confrontation between the goalscorer and Brown in the England goal, with the Swiss player falling dramatically to the floor clutching her face as she grappled for the ball. To Brown's horror referee Cristina Dorcioman produced a red card and England faced playing out the second half with just 10 players.

Siobhan Chamberlain came on for Aluko and England reshuffled to a 4-4-1. Yet Fara Williams calmed visiting nerves, converting a penalty awarded when Smith was fouled by Caroline Abbe in the 50th minute. After her first-half miss, Smith relinquished spot-kick duties and Williams scored confidently past Brunner.

Chamberlain was beaten in the 65th minute by the goal of the night, a 25-yard free-kick from Zumbuhl into the top righthand corner of her net. A Switzerland corner then clipped the top of Chamberlain's bar and Katie Chapman might have done better than head substitute Jess Clarke's cross straight at Brunner.

At the final whistle England started to celebrate becoming one of the 16 teams who will compete in next year's finals to be held in Germany, starting on 26 June. It is the fourth successive major tournament they have reached under Powell and they will hope to match at least the success they enjoyed in China three years ago when England reached the quarter-finals before being knocked out by the United States. The draw for the 2011 competition will be held in December.

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