VIDEO: Historic win for England
Saturday, 02 April, 2011
Clarke and Yankey inspire England win over world's No.1 team.
by Glenn Lavery at the Matchroom Stadium
Goals from Jess Clarke and Rachel Yankey gave England a confidence-building victory over USA at Matchroom Stadium, just under three months before the start of the FIFA Women's World Cup. And it was a historic night for Hope Powell's side, who recorded their first victory over the USA for 22 years.
Clarke volleyed England ahead from close range on eight minutes and Yankey rifled in a wonderful second as the Three Lions ran riot against the former two-time world champions in the first half..
Megan Rapinoe halved the deficit just before the break and the visitors came into the game more in the second period, but England held out to claim a famous win.
The Three Lions came out firing on all cylinders and almost took the lead after just five minutes. A corner from Yankey found its way to Clarke who helped it on from close range but her flick was just too high and the ball dropped narrowly over the bar.
Clarke soon made amends, though, and fired England ahead just three minutes later. Jill Scott played a cute through ball out to left for the winger to run on to and she managed to push the ball to the touchline. Ellen White and Rachel Buehler challenged for the loose ball, sending it looping into the air and Clarke volleyed it home ten yards out.
Deservedly ahead, the hosts were very much on top in every area of the pitch, particularly in the midfield, and were displaying better quality on the ball and surging forward at every attempt, really taking the game to the number one side in the world.
Fara Williams was the width of the bar away from extending England's lead midway through the half, but the advantage was eventually doubled by Yankey and it was a goal to remember for England's second most capped player.
Kelly Smith broke forward through the middle and laid the ball out to the left where her former Arsenal colleague was waiting, unmarked. Yankey took a touch to compose herself and gave Nicole Barnhart no chance by drilling her angled drive into the top corner, before sinking to her knees in celebration.
USA hadn't settled and looked troubled every time England came at them, but they suddenly found themselves back in the game when Smith gave the ball away in the centre circle.
Just moments earlier she had sent the ball narrowly wide of the angle of post and bar, before conceding possession to Rapinoe who ran at the heart of the England backline. The defence dropped off, allowing Rapinoe to find the bottom right-hand corner of Karen Bardsley's goal from just outside the box.
The second half was played on a much more even keel as USA wrestled a bit of the momentum from the Three Lions, but found Bardsley in inspired form.
There was a lack of clear cut chances after the interval, though, and it wasn't until Rapinoe's 67th-minute corner that USA really looked like equalising. England failed to clear their lines and the ball bobbled about in the box before substitute Stephanie Cox cracked a shot over the bar.
Then, a loose back pass from Rachel Unitt almost let in Heather O'Reilly, but Bardsley was out quickly to block, one of a number of saves the Sky Blue 'keeper made in the second half.
USA pressed for an equaliser in the closing stages but just couldn't find a way through, as England held on for a momentus victory.