Team GB women earn hard-fought draw against Sweden in Olympic football warm-up


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The Independent Online

Substitute Rachel Yankey was denied by the woodwork as Team GB ended their preparations for the Olympics with a hard-fought draw against Sweden.

The 33-year-old Arsenal striker came off the bench to hit the post with 20 minutes remaining with the Swedes pressing for victory after being dominated before the break.

Full-back Steph Houghton and striker Kelly Smith had earlier gone close for Hope Powell's side, but home goalkeeper Karen Bardsley had to save from Kosovare Asllani before the break and replacement Rachel Brown was significantly busier after it.

Team GB coach Hope Powell handed Scots Ife Dieke and Kim Little starting berths in her side's final Olympic warm-up game against Sweden.

The pair were joined by nine England internationals, including north-east duo Jill Scott and Steph Houghton, for the contest at Middlesbrough's Riverside Stadium.

Sweden boss Thomas Dennerby included five of the women who lined up for the World Cup semi-final defeat by eventual winners Japan in July last year.

The Swedes enjoyed the greater share of the early possession, but it was Britain who were first to threaten.

Experienced striker Kelly Smith fired a left-foot shot across the face of goal with two minutes played, and strike-partner Ellen White kept keeper Hedvig Lindahl on her toes with a powerfully-struck volley, which flew wide of the far post four minutes later.

Marauding full-back Alex Scott was causing all kinds of problems for the Scandinavians down the right as she repeatedly worked her way into advanced positions, although she could not find the killer ball to make the pressure count.

Lindahl was forced into her first save of the game with 10 minutes played, although she was not unduly troubled by Steph Houghton's curling free-kick from distance.

However, Team GB found themselves under pressure four minutes later when Anita Asante was caught in possession in midfield by Caroline Seger, who slid a pass into the path of striker Sofia Jakobsson, only for skipper Casey Stoney to make a timely intervention.

The home side went close once again with 18 minutes played when Eni Aluko left Annica Svensson for dead down the left and although her cross was cut out by Lisa Dahlkvist, White pounced on the rebound, but saw her shot arc just wide.

GB were dominating as they defended with few scares at one end and enjoyed plenty of possession at the other.

However, they almost played themselves into trouble with 26 minutes gone.

Skipper Casey Stoney's loose pass presented Seger and Jakobsson with an opportunity to attack her and central defensive partner Dieke.

However, when Jakobsson squared for her team-mate in front of goal, Seger scuffed her shot harmlessly wide.

But Powell's side restored order on the half-hour when Houghton played a one-two with White and blasted a right-footed effort inches over the crossbar.

Lindahl was scurrying anxiously back towards her line seconds later when Smith floated in an audacious attempt from 40 yards, but saw the ball drop just wide.

Marie Hammarstrom caused goalkeeper Karen Bardsley a moment's concern when she also took aim from distance, but she too narrowly missed the target.

Bardsley was called upon for the first time five minutes before the break, beating away Kosovare Asllani's driven shot from a tight angle at her near post.

The keeper was in action again four minutes later when she got down well to keep out Jakobsson's strike after she had cut inside from space on the left.

INTRO: Full-back Steph Houghton came closest to opening the scoring as Team GB demonstrated their Olympic credentials against World Cup semi-finalists Sweden.

The defender blasted a shot just over the crossbar after playing a neat one-two with striker Ellen White on the half-hour as the home side dominated.

Striker Kelly Smith also went close with a cheeky long-range effort, but GB goalkeeper Karen Bardsley had to make a smart save at her near post to deny Kosovare Asllani five minutes before the break.

Powell made three changes at the break as Bardsley, Asante and White made way for Rachel Brown, Claire Rafferty and Rachel Yankey, while Dennerby replaced Svensson with Lina Nilsson.

The Swedish newcomer almost made an instant impact when she found space down the right within three minutes and pulled the ball square towards the near post.

Seger cleverly dummied it, but Stoney was not fooled and made a vital interception.

Brown too was quickly into the game, although Dahlkvist's 52nd-minute shot did not cause her any real problems.

She was in trouble three minutes later, however, when Jakobsson burst through and reached the ball before her as she came from her line, but fortunately for the keeper, the Swede's chipped effort dropped wide.

Dahlkvist made way for Johanna Almgren as the game approached the hour-mark with the home side under sustained pressure.

Alex Scott embarked upon her first adventurous run of the second half with 62 minutes played, but her cross was easily claimed by Lindahl.

Karen Carney and Sophie Bradley replaced Smith and Dieke as Powell used the depth of her squad, but it was the visitors who continued to prosper with Sara Thunebro testing Brown from distance with 64 minutes played and Asllani forcing another save two minutes later.

However, Yankey very nearly made the breakthrough with 20 minutes remaining as GB carved open the Swedes for the first time since the break.

Fellow substitute Carney split the yellow shirts with a perfectly-weighted pass for the Arsenal striker to run clear and fire past Lindahl, only to see her shot cannon back off the post.

Carney went close herself nine minutes later when she floated another long-range shot over Lindahl, but also just over the bar with Team GB finishing strongly.

The hard-working Yankey found herself in space once again nine minute from time, but on this occasion she could not hit the target as defensive cover arrived.