'The fight of our lives'
Saturday, 29 August, 2009
Hope Powell says her players had the 'fight of their lives' against Russia.
Stuart Mawhinney in Helsinki
After England secured a crucial victory and three valuable points on Friday night in Helsinki, Hope Powell admitted that it was a hard game to watch from the sidelines.
England went behind after just two minutes, with Russia extending their lead 20 minutes later. Just when all looked lost Karen Carney, Eniola Aluko and Kelly Smith hit back with goals before the break and England were on top again.
The second half was a nervous affair as Russia went close to levelling the scores, but Powell was relieved to see her team come through with victory.
Powell said: "Sometimes we make it particularly difficult for ourselves. We conceded very early to a very good header, and then losing another goal made it tough.
"But we did really well to dig deep and score three goals which is not an easy task, especially against a team like Russia. They will be very disappointed but what a team - they had us on the backfoot for much of the game.
"I have to applaud the fighting spirit we showed."
Although England trailed by two goals halfway through the first period, Powell revealed that she never lost faith that her team could win the game.
"Even at 2-0 I really believed," Powell explained. "We were playing well in patches, and having conceded so early in the game we have been there before.
"At half time we regrouped, but during that first half there was a lot of communication to settle the players down.
"Russia never let up. If you had been in the position of scoring two goals and being ahead, why wouldn't you believe you could do I again?
"We showed absolute resilience, the players knew it was a fight for their lives. They showed that character and we are still in it."
Now England face Sweden on Monday evening for a place in the last eight, and Powell is under no illusions as to how tough a task it will be.
"Sweden were always favourites to win the group and they have won both their games without conceding a goal. What we now have to do is come up with a strategy and try to win the group.
"It was an emotional game and it put a lot of demands on the players.I said to them before that it was probably the biggest game of your lives, it was do-or-die.
"It was really intense, but we got through it."