England Women vs China Women match report: Three Lions defence show nerves after flying start

England Women 2 China Women 1

This briefly looked like being a typical England World Cup send-off. A one-sided thrashing that imbues the team with inflated expectations before the inevitable anticlimax. Across Manchester nine years ago, Sven Goran Eriksson’s Englishmen thumped Jamaica 6-0, then struggled to beat Trinidad & Tobago when they got to Germany.

However, having gone two up inside 10 minutes of their final match before heading to Canada for the Women’s World Cup, Mark Sampson’s Englishwomen then struggling to put away dogged Chinese opposition. This may be ultimately more beneficial, though it leaves Sampson with much to ponder before he names his 23-woman squad.

His selection was intriguing. With three regulars absent with injury – captain Steph Houghton, Karen Carney and Lucy Bronze – and leading striker Eni Aluko on the bench, several players were given a chance to stake a claim for the opening game against France on 9 June.

Among those hoping to catch the eye was Fran Kirby, whose goal-laden start to the season is devalued by taking place in the second division of the FA Women’s Super League. The 21-year-old certainly made a bright start. Less than a minute had elapsed when Jade Moore flicked on Siobhan Chamberlain’s clearance and Kirby neatly beat her marker, advanced, then delivered the perfect cross for Jodie Taylor. The US-based striker converted, slightly scrappily, for her fourth goal in eight England appearances.

Nine minutes later Kirby scored herself, smartly driving into the roof of the net after neatly controlling Jordan Nobbs’ right-wing cross. A goalpoacher’s strike.

The crowd of 5,665 settled back to count the goals. A rout might have ensued had Moore not struck the post after Chinese keeper Yue Zhang mishit a clearance straight to her less than 20 yards out. Instead the visitors scored next, highlighting defensive concerns for Sampson in the process. A simple ball over the top was not properly dealt with, leading to a corner, and a bout of head tennis ended with Shanshan Wang heading in.

The goal settled the Chinese and England were suddenly in a contest. Before the break Yue saved from Taylor, then Chamberlain needed to go full length to push away a 25-yard free-kick from Dongna Li. After it Yue denied Kirby and Toni Duggan while Chamberlain was stretched by Shuang Wang. With Alex Greenwood somehow scooping over from two yards, and Shanshan also culpable from close in, that was the end of the scoring.

Sampson names his squad on 11 May. With the injured trio expected to be fit and 26 in the party here, he will shatter the dreams of six players. Just as long as he does not do so to the strains of Kenny G.

England (4-4-2): Chamberlain; Scott (both Arsenal), Bassett, Greenwood (both Notts County), Rafferty (Chelsea); Nobbs (Arsenal), Scott (Manchester City), Williams (Liverpool), Moore (Birmingham City); Taylor (Portland Thorns), Kirby (Reading). Substitutes used Duggan (Manchester City) for Moore, 61; Stoney (Arsenal) for Rafferty 72; Aluko (Chelsea) for Kirby, 72; Sanderson (Arsenal) for Taylor, 82; Potter (Birmingham) for Nobbs, 84; White (Notts County) for J Scott, 90.

Comments