Striking result takes England close to promised land
Ukraine 1 England 2
England women's team marched one step closer to qualifying for the European Women's Championship finals this afternoon with victory in the first-leg of their play-off in Kiev
Goals by substitutes Kelly Smith and Karen Walker sent England on their way in the Kolos Stadium, although a lapse in concentration at the death allowed the Ukraine captain Natalia Zinchenko to pull one back.
The win in Kiev sets up an exciting return leg on 28 November at Leyton Orient, where Hope Powell's side will be looking to take their place in the finals for the first time since the national team was taken over by The FA.
The first half was a pretty stale affair as the midfield was swamped by the home side, who lined up in a 4-5-1 formation. Despite having much of the possession and creating by far the most chances in the first half England could not get the breakthrough they wanted or deserved. The closest they came was on 42 minutes when Arsenal's Angela Banks beat the Ukrainian goalkeeper but not the offside trap and her goal was disallowed.
At half-time, Powell rang the changes and brought on Kelly Smith for the second half, with Banks standing aside. Within 13 minutes of the restart the substitution paid dividends as Sue Smith played a great ball to her namesake, whose birthday it was yesterday. Smith's volley from close range gave the home keeper no chance.
The visitors' second, on 84 minutes, sealed the tie and came courtesy of some poor goalkeeping by Shulgha. Veteran striker Karen Walker, on for Marieanne Spacey, hit her shot directly at the keeper who fumbled the save and saw the ball go under her body and across the line.
"We felt the team had lost their way in the first half, so we made a few changes at half-time and gave a much better second-half performance,'' a delighted Powell said after the game. "Once we got our first goal we got our belief back and have come away with two goals which puts us within touching distance of the finals."
Powell was particularly pleased with the defence and praised Everton's Sammy Britton and captain Mo Marley, Charlton's Julie Fletcher and Fulham's Katie Chapman, who was player of the match.
England: Brown, Britten (White 80), Fletcher, Easton, Marley, Chapman, Burke, Proctor, Spacey (Walker 75) , Banks (Smith 45), S Smith