A stoppage-time equaliser by the substitute Toni Duggan kept alive England’s hopes of progressing to the knockout stages of the Women’s Euro 2013. However, after taking just one point from their first two matchers and with a final game to come against a France team they have failed to beat since 1974, those hopes are slim.
“We’re in a fight now,” said coach Hope Powell. “It didn’t go according to plan today and now we face one of the favourites. We know it’s a mountain, but sometimes it’s easier to play against teams you’re not expected to beat.”
After Friday’s surprise defeat by Spain, this was another below-par display, lacking urgency and drive, one that against a team that in 11 attempts have never won a match at a Euro finals failed to take advantage of the possession they had in abundance.
“We’re lacking in real quality, in terms of executing the final ball and conceding really silly goals,” said Powell. “We’re not playing to our max. The girls are confident in their ability but for some reason, when we get on the pitch, it’s not coming together.”
It was only when Duggan and the playmaker Kelly Smith, the latter less than fully fit but needed for inspiration, were sent on as late substitutes that England looked capable of levelling the midfielder Nelli Korovkina’s 38th-minute opener for Russia.
England began brightly, the striker Ellen White looping a 15 yard shot just over the bar and the midfielder Jill Scott going close to a ninth minute goal, driving in an angled shot that the goalkeeper Elvira Todua pushed on to the near post.
After Korovkina had shot narrowly wide, Powell’s side wasted a simple chance, the left back Steph Houghton sending a free header wide then Alex Scott, captaining the side on the day she won her 100th cap, went closer with a low 18-yard shot that drifted just past the far post.
But after controlling most of the first half England fell behind as the right winger Elena Terkhova, free on the penalty spot, headed down Elena Morozova’s cross for Korovkina to shoot past Karen Bardsley.
England continued to have the majority of the possession but were wasteful on the hour when White, meeting Karen Carney’s cross at the far post, scuffed her three yard shot wide. As the game moved into the closing stages Powell, desperate for her side to salvage at least a point, sent her second and third substitutes on and it was Smith and Duggan who combined for the goal.
Duggan had lobbed a 90th minute effort against the bar, but three minutes into stoppage time she met Smith’s low cross with a cross shot that crept just inside the far post.
However, England will have to vastly improve against France. “Was that performance good enough?” added Powell. “No it was not.”
England (4-2-3-1): Bardsley; A. Scott, Bassett, Stoney, Houghton (Duggan, 64); J Scott, Asante; Aluko (Smith, 78), Williams, Yankey (Carney, 17); White. Russia (4-2-3-1): Todua; Petrova, Sidorovskaya, Tsybutovich, Medved; Kostyukova, Savchenkova (Dyachkova, 84); Terekhova (Kurochkina, 90), Korovkina (Shlyapina, 90), Sochneva; Morozova. Referee B Steinhaus (Germany)
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