England top group with win over Japan
Tuesday, 05 July, 2011
Fine goals from White and Yankey book place in last-eight.
By Glenn Lavery in Augsburg
England booked their place in the quarter-finals of the FIFA Women's World Cup with a 2-0 victory over Japan in Augsburg.
A point would have been enough to guarantee their progress, but the win ensures they top Group B and will now face France in the last-eight on Saturday.
Ellen White gave England the lead with an exquisite lob after quarter of an hour while Rachel Yankey secured the victory in the second half with a well taken chipped finish.
National Coach Hope Powell had spoken before the game of how her side had to disrupt Japan's penchant for 'tiki-taka' football, and they certainly did that throughout the game. England deserved the victory both for their containment of the Japanese and for their own positive play.
White proved a handful all evening, Anita Asante provided the cover, allowing the formidable Jill Scott to join in attacks. Jess Clarke was bright in the first half and the back four solid throughout.
Keeping her pre-match promise, Powell made changes - four in total - to the side that beat New Zealand 2-1 on Friday. As they had both recovered from injury on the eve of the World Cup, Fara Williams and captain Faye White were rested and replaced by Asante and Sophie Bradley respectively. Clarke, who scored the winner against the Kiwis, and Karen Carney came in for Rachel Yankey and Eniola Aluko.
In a scrappy opening, Kozue Ando had the game's first shot after five minutes which was gathered by Karen Bardsley. White then came close when latching onto Jill Scott's flick-on from Bradley's long throw, but then the game livened up, certainly from England's point of view.
Powell's side hadn't let Japan fall into the short passing game for which they were renowned and were actually able to create a few openings of their own. One of these led to a sublime opening goal on 15 minutes.
Carney played a delightful ball over the top for White and the young Arsenal forward kept her cool and lobbed Ayumi Kaihori from the edge of the area to score her first World Cup goal.
One youngster was doing the business at one end and another was keeping Japan at bay at the other. In two key interceptions, 21-year-old centre-back Bradley justified her inclusion and her standing as one of her country's brightest prospects.
First, she prevented Ando a clean strike at goal from inside the box with a well-timed sliding tackle and then shuffled her feet well to clear Aya Miyama's header off the line.
But then White attempted to reclaim the limelight with an acrobatic overhead kick, from Clarke's chipped centre, Kaihori back tracked well to tip the ball onto the bar.
The game had developed into an entertaining contest and Japan slowly improved. They managed to string a few passing moves together and had a presentable opportunity to equalise when Bardsley's punched clearance fell to Miyama on the edge of the area but she blazed over.
A better chance came the way of Yuki Nagasato just after the restart when she slid in to meet Miyama's in-swinging free-kick, though she couldn't direct the ball goalwards.
Rachel Unitt was required to block Nagasato's fierce shot from close range, and Alex Scott hooked a dangerous far post cross away as Japan started to up the tempo, but yet again a Powell substitution paid off as Yankey, on for Clarke at the break, doubled England's lead on 66 minutes.
Clarke had leapt off the bench on Friday to score the winner against New Zealand and this time it was her replacement who did the damage. Unitt played a solid left-hand cross which Yankey took away from her marker before lifting over the on-rushing Kaihori.
This second goal knocked Japan out of their building rhythm, though the Asian side did attempt to get back into the game towards the end. Nagasato steered a shot wide from a corner after England failed to properly clear.
She had another go a few minutes later which flew over the bar, but England held on with relative ease and they can now look forward to a quarter final in Leverkusen on Saturday.