Women's World Cup 2015: Karen Carney and Fara Williams ease England into last 16

England 2 Colombia 1: Victory sets up clash with Norway for Lionesses

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England, with the best British performance in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium since Brendan Foster took 10,000m bronze in the 1976 Games, jogged into the knockout stages of the Women’s World Cup with a largely composed win.

Goals from Karen Carney and, from the spot, Fara Williams, after 15 and 38 minutes were enough to give England victory, but there was another late lapse in concentration.

France, three-up inside 15 minutes against Mexico in Ottawa, 5-0 winners after 90, topped the group but that may not disappoint England as they now go into the weaker half of the draw, albeit with a schedule that involves a lot of travel.

First destination is Ottawa, and a last-16 tie on Monday against a Norway team that held fancied Germany to a draw in the group stage. Colombia still progress, which would have been their aim at the start of the season.

Mark Sampson made five changes from the team that defeated Mexico 2-1 on Saturday. This might seem surprising but he is very much a coach who picks teams according to the opposition, and within the context of a potentially demanding tournament.

Out went Lucy Bronze and Claire Rafferty, who may be injured, Jill Scott and Eniola Aluko who may have been dropped, and Laura Bassett who looks to have been rested.

Alex Scott returned, Alex Greenwood and Carney made their first starts after coming on as substitutes against Mexico, and Casey Stoney and Jordan Nobbs made their debuts this tournament.

Nobbs has been troubled by a hamstring problem but Stoney, who was awarded the MBE at the weekend, will have been surprised herself at being included. It was only the 33-year-old ex-captain’s third start under Sampson.

From the start England appeared to have more energy than the South Americans in front of a small but noisy crowd in the cavernous arena.

Before taking control of the first half England had a scare. The highly-skilled Lady Andrade tricked her way past Nobbs and Scott but Daniela Montoya, who scored such a screamer against France, this time shot over.

With Colombian goalkeeper Stefany Sepulveda 5ft 5in, England clearly saw set-pieces as opportunities. A well-worked corner move ended with Scott heading Williams’ deep ball back across goal but Stoney headed over. No matter, three minutes later Sepulveda parried a Steph Houghton free-kick and Carney swept the ball in from a tight angle.

Another Houghton dead-ball produced the second goal, but it was fortunate. The free-kick was poor but reached Toni Duggan whose shot hit the arm of Carolina Arias. A penalty was harshly awarded, but thumped home by Williams.

There was a warning as the half ended with Karen Bardsley having to come out fast to prevent Carolina Arias turning in a neat chipped past by the clever Yoreli Rincon.

Having passed up a couple of decent chances to extend their lead in the early part of the second period, through Scott and Duggan, England began to lose their poise as Colombia pushed on. Rincon worried Bardsley with a long shot and Scott was booked as England resorted to series of fouls to break up Colombia’s momentum. 

Lianne Sanderson, Jo Potter, then Jodie Taylor were introduced meaning every outfielder in the squad has played. Gradually, with the midfield stiffened, England began to regain a measure of command. 

However with Sanderson miscuing a chance, then denied by Sepulveda at the near post, and Taylor tripped by the keeper as she broke clear, a third goal proved elusive.

So there was a late bout of nerves when Andrade scored in injury time but it was too late. Norway, the 1995 winners, await.