England''s women recorded an excellent 2-0 victory over Denmark at Fratton Park. A Kelly Smith penalty sealed the win.
England's women recorded an excellent 2-0 victory over Denmark at Fratton Park last night. An own goal and a Kelly Smith spot-kick sealed the win.
Hope Powell's side went one better than their male counterparts by winning their first friendly of the year, albeit with a little help from Denmark goalkeeper Tine Cederkvist.
The unfortunate Dane gifted Hope Powell's side a 73rd-minute opener with a fumbled own goal in a crucial warm-up match for England ahead of the European Championship they will host next year.
And former Philadelphia Charge striker Kelly Smith made sure of a 2-0 victory when she stroked home a penalty in her first competitive match for three months.
A crowd of 8,101 turned up in bitterly cold conditions to watch England's first fixture since a 5-0 drubbing of Scotland last November.
But this was not weather for the tight shorts and skimpy tops apparently favoured by FIFA president Sepp Blatter as a means of attracting more interest in the women's game.
Louise Hansen was quick to warm the hands of England goalkeeper Pauline Cope with a testing shot from distance inside a minute, before Casey Stoney failed to make the most of Rachel Unitt's left-wing cross at the other end.
Cope denied Hansen again from closer range on the half-hour mark after a mistake by England captain Faye White, and the lively Fara Williams was then wide of the target from 25 yards after a neat lay-off from Smith.
The 25-year-old's lack of football was a concern prior to kick-off, but Smith shrugged off any doubts about her fitness with a dynamic performance against a side ranked four places higher than England in the world.
Jody Handley brought the crowd to life in the 56th minute by ending a dynamic surge through the middle with a vicious 25-yard, dipping effort which rebounded off the crossbar, but Cederkvist parried substitute Kristy Moore's follow-up.
Corinne Yorston was then introduced from the bench and her long ball out of defence provided Norway-based Moore with another chance which she blazed wastefully wide.
But England were ahead in fortuitous circumstances in the 73rd minute, when Moore's right-wing cross rebounded off Gitte Andersen and the unfortunate Cederkvist allowed the ball to squirm through her fingers at the near post.
The Danes almost struck back immediately from the restart, when Cope had to be alert to block from Lene Jensen, but Smith sent Cederkvist the wrong way with an 82nd-minute penalty after being fouled by Anne Eggers.
National coach Powell was understandably proud of her side, as much for the manner of their play as for the overall result. She said: "A few years ago playing in front of a crowd was a bit of a problem for us. We got nervous and lost focus.
"But the girls like the adulation and the fame now and it was a great crowd tonight. They have signed lots of shirts and the kids all want their autographs. They deserve it.
"It was a problem playing at home before, because there was pressure. But they've overcome that. Last year we started getting consistent crowds and you get used to that.
"The girls like to play for a crowd now and the more they play together between now and next year's Championship the better they will become.
"We're still building for next year and there are players now fighting for places, which is a good position to be in.''
Star-striker Smith admitted she and the rest of the side had been inspired by the fans who had got behind England on the night.
"It's always good to have a home crowd behind you and we were very excited to see over 8,000 here because next year if the Championship is publicised right we might double that.''