Sunday, 12 September, 2010
Kelly Smith breaks goalscoring record in play-off first leg win.
by Glenn Lavery at Greenhous Meadow Stadium
England put themselves in a favourable position to qualify for next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup by beating Switzerland 2-0 in the first leg of Sunday evening’s play-off.
In added time at the end of the first-half, Kelly Smith became her country’s all-time leading goalscorer with her 41st strike of a thoroughly impressive career. Smith curled home the second goal of the game, just two minutes after Fara Williams had put the hosts ahead with a confidently struck left-foot shot.
These two goals rewarded England’s first-half play, and overall control of the game, and it gives them a comfortable cushion to take to Wohlen for Thursday’s return leg.
However, it could have been a completely different story had Ramona Bachmann converted an all-important away goal for the visitors early on. She was played in by her strike partner Lara Dickenmann on nine minutes and proceeded to run at the heart of the England backline before unleashing a 20-yard shot which flew over the frame of the goal.
England responded and just a minute later the two wide players, Rachel Yankey and Eniola Aluko, both came within the width of the crossbar of giving Hope Powell’s side the lead. First, the Arsenal winger drilled an angled left-foot shot goalwards and watched the ball cannon off the bar. It was worked out wide to Alex Scott whose whipped centre was met on the volley by Aluko. Marisa Brunner was beaten but the woodwork intervened for a second time.
The visiting stopper was more alert to fist clear a Williams free-kick as England upped the ante midway through the half. Switzerland looked good going forward but England had begun to control possession of the ball and ask questions of the Swiss defence, and the right-back was the next player to get in on the action, though she sliced her shot wide after being teed up by a delicate, volleyed through ball from Aluko.
Despite the Three Lions’ dominance, Bachmann was proving Switzerland’s main threat up front and she reminded England of her ability when she jinked her way into space inside the box, though her shot was blocked by Faye White.
As half-time approached, England made their supremacy count with two goals in two minutes. On 44 minutes, Jill Scott expertly controlled Aluko’s chipped pass and saw her close-range shot blocked by Brunner, who reacted quickly to repel Smith’s effort from Alex Scott’s cross. She was unable to keep out the second rebound from Williams, though, and the midfielder drilled the Three Lions ahead with a low, left-foot shot from 15 yards.
It got even better before the whistle sounded and Williams was heavily involved once more, going from goalscorer to creator. She wrestled possession from Sandy Maendly and found Jill Scott in the centre, who, in turn, found Smith. Williams had continued her run and received the ball again, and although she lost her footing, she was able to feed Smith once more and the forward stroked home her record-breaking goal. More importantly it gave England an even better cushion going into the break.
It took the second half a while to get going and there were not many clear-cut chances created by either side. England were less troubled than they were in the opening 45 minutes but they were also unable to extend their advantage.
A 47th-minute shot from Jill Scott flew over the bar and Aluko later delivered a delicious left-wing cross which was missed by everyone, but by far the best opportunity of the half fell to Maendly after 75 minutes when she tried to lob Rachel Brown from the edge of the area, but England’s goalkeeper watched it all the way and tipped it over the bar. Maendly then headed wide from the subsequent corner.
The two goalscorers both came close in the final five minutes with long range efforts. Smith’s effort, after a neat turn on the edge of the box, bent just wide and Williams’ effort was parried by Brunner and collected at the second attempt.
Swiss substitute Ana Maria Crnogorcevic raced clear of Rachel Unitt and into the box on 87 minutes but White was across quickly to block the shot at goal and ensure England will travel to Switzerland with a decent advantage.