Last night’s qualifier saw Hope Powell’s England squad a step nearer to Euro 2013
Away from the bright lights and millions of global viewers trained on the group B ‘Germany-Denmark-Portugal-Netherlands’ showdown in Pol-kraine this evening, England’s women’s team moved a crucial step closer to qualification for their own European odyssey with a closely-fought victory over their Dutch counterparts in Manchester.
Truthfully, the game’s complexion may have been somewhat different had the Netherlands capitalised better on some early nerves from England goalkeeper Rachel Brown, a long range effort in the early stages from Dutch number 11 Lieke Martens eliciting a spilled tip away from goal as early as the sixth minute.
A lack of composure from both teams belied some of the importance of the fixture and when the Netherlands were robbed in midfield with 25 minutes gone, Eni Aluko might have done better from a lightning fast England break. The Netherlands had perhaps shaded the first half an hour and a superb show of interplay from a simple long ball forwards almost brought reward for Manon Melis, the prolific Dutch forward, with a dart through the England central defence drawing a decent stop from Brown.
With victory paramount for England, Hope Powell sent on Ellen White at half time and the Arsenal forward almost paid immediate dividends with a stupendous volleyed finish from the right angle of the penalty box ruled out for an entirely correct offside call.
The crucial goal finally arrived with the hour mark gone as Alex Scott was fouled cutting in from the right leading to a free kick in a dangerous position. With the Dutch preparing their wall, Rachel Yankey displayed quick thought and no little cheek to dispatch a quick effort into the far side of Loes Guerts’ net.
The Netherlands were incensed and almost broke straight back with a cross from wide on the left which beat Rachel Brown entirely, coming back off her far post and somehow failing to find a Dutch forward on the follow-up.
With a lead to protect, England frustrated the Dutch for the remaining 25 minutes delivering an 11th straight home victory and a clear path to automatic qualification for next year’s finals in Sweden. Two final games await against Slovenia and Croatia, but if Hope Powell’s team can deliver the expected 6 points a place in the European Championships awaits.
image from: http://www.thefa.com/England/womens-seniors