England beaten in Euro opener
Tuesday, 25 August, 2009
The England Women's team lose 2-1 to Italy in Lahti.
Stuart Mawhinney in Lahti
In the late afternoon sunshine in Lahti England kicked off their European Championship campaign with a disappointing defeat to Italy.
After two years of hard work in qualifying for this tournament it was vital to get off to a winning start, but having seen Casey Stoney sent off with more than an hour of the game to play it was always going to be a difficult task for Hope Powell's team.
Fara Williams had given England the lead in spite of that setback, but goals from Patrizia Panico and a long-range effort from Alessia Tuttino gave Italy the three points.
It was Williams who saw the first opening as she traded passes with the lively Eniola Aluko in the Italian penalty box before seeing her shot blocked by Elisabeth Tona.
The rebound seemed to fall kindly for her but the Everton midfielder was adjudged to be offside.
Italy broke quickly minutes later and saw the first real effort on goal from the edge of the area. With 12 minutes on the clock Giulia Domenichetti stung the palms of Rachel Brown, earning a corner as a result.
Williams then hit a trademark effort from more than 25 yards out, the ball whistling inches over the Italian crossbar with Picarelli relieved to see the effort escape her.
Karen Carney had a superb chance on 18 minutes to open the scoring. It was Williams who flicked the ball through but Carney struck the ball on the half volley, and it sailed wide of the post.
Italy remained a threat throughout the first half with swift counter attacking football, backed by willing runners, but it was England who enjoyed the greater possession.
They should have taken the lead when Karen Carney's flighted corner evaded the Italian 'keeper but Faye White was just out of reach of the ball.
England suffered a devastating blow with 28 minutes on the clock when Casey Stoney was given a red card, for denying a goalscoring opportunity - although there seemed to be little contact with the onrushing Melanie Gabbiadini.
Luckily for England the result was a free-kick and not a penalty, and a brave block by Katie Chapman ensured that a goal did not compound the misery of losing such an experienced player as Stoney from the backline.
England readjusted with Katie Chapman stepping into defence alongside Arsenal teammate Faye White, and Anita Asante moving out to the left back slot.
Karen Carney turned the game in England's favour seven minutes before half-time when she showed fantastic trickery to win a penalty that Fara Williams duly slotted home. A 26th goal for her country, and few will have been greeted with as much satisfaction. Facing the prospect of more than an hour with one less player than their opponents, a goal before the interval was a timely boost for Hope Powell's team.
In added time Eniola Aluko showed great pace to beat Schiavi to a bouncing ball and almost doubled the lead from a tight angle.
Faye White was called upon to make a crucial interception from an Italian corner, but England took their lead into the interval.
At the break Kelly Smith replaced Eniola Aluko up front, as England sought to ensure a winning start to Euro 2009.
Smith showed just why she is so highly rated with a moment of brilliance six minutes into the second period. Taking the ball with her back to goal on the halfway line, Smith showed fantastic close control to deceive four Italian players in close proximity. The mesmerising run was ended by a foul and a free-kick to England.
Patrizia Panico levelled the scores on 56 minutes with a terrific finish that Rachel Brown could do little about. A deep cross arched over Katie Chapman's head and Panico pounced with instant control, before driving the ball into the bottom corner with her left foot.
It was harsh on England who had worked tirelessly after losing Stoney early in the first period.
With Italy in the ascendancy Asante was called upon to make a superb saving tackle as Gabbiadini threatened to steal in on goal.
From the restart England broke up the other end and Kelly Smith almost rescued the lead as she ghosted into the area along the by-line, only to see her effort blocked for a corner.
Asante hurt herself in the earlier collision with Gabbiadini, and though she tried to play on she was replaced by Everton defender Rachel Unitt.
Williams went close to putting England back in the lead as she latched onto a a fine through pass from Jill Scott. Picarelli was in the right place to claim the ball when a heavier touch would have beaten her.
Alessia Tuttino scored a rocket into the top corner to put Italy into the lead. From almost 30 yards the Itali midfielder drove the ball powerfully past Rachel Brown to give England a mountain to climb.
With ten against eleven, England struggled to create chances to equalise, and the stubborn Italian defence held firm.
Next up for England is Russia on Friday evening in Helsinki.