Smith double seals fifth spot
Wednesday, 09 March, 2011
A brace from Sue Smith enough to secure victory over South Korea.
by Glenn Lavery in Larnaca
A goal in each half for Sue Smith gave England a 2-0 victory over South Korea in the Cyprus Cup's fifth/sixth place play-off in Larnaca.
After missing a gilt-edged opportunity early on, the diminutive Smith broke the deadlock with an in-swinging cross on 16 minutes and she wrapped up the win late in the game with a well-executed curler from just inside the box.
This Cyprus Cup campaign was an opportunity for Hope Powell to further prepare her squad for this summer's World Cup and she will be pleased with the way her side finished the tournament, certainly in terms of their performances.
They may have beaten Italy in the first game but it was clear against Canada on Monday, despite the defeat, and against Korea here today that England had got better as the Cyprus Cup progressed and that is one big positive to take into any major tournament.
This game also allowed England to further familiarise themselves with an Asian nation's style of play, as Japan will provide group stage opposition in Germany.
There were eight changes to the team that started on Monday with only Karen Bardsley, Dunia Susi and Kelly Smith retaining their place in the starting eleven, as Powell kept her promise of giving all her players adequate game time in this competition.
It took a while for both sets of players to find their feet amid tricky conditions; a heavy, wet pitch and a strong wind, and a few passes and first touches went awry in the opening moments.
It was the two-goal hero who had the first opening in the fourth minute and Sue Smith will be disappointed not to have done better. She latched on to Laura Bassett's through ball, which zipped beyond the Korean back line, rounded the 'keeper, Min Kyung Jun, but somehow contrived to hit the ball into the side netting with her, albeit weaker, right foot.
The Lincoln Ladies winger soon made amends though, even if there was a large slice of good fortune about her opener. Collecting the ball on the right wing, she whipped an in-swinging cross into the box which evaded everyone, including Jun, and the ball nestled in the far corner of the net. Fortuitous as it might have been, an England lead had been totally merited.
Before the opener, Jess Clarke and Eniola Aluko had just failed to collect clever through balls from Susi and Kelly Smith respectively, but South Korea looked particularly susceptible to high crosses into the box. Jun wasn't convincing in claiming one Clarke cross and Jill Scott failed to capitalise by hitting the loose ball straight into Sue Smith's back from close range. The tallest player on the pitch, Scott also headed a corner from Clarke narrowly wide.
Korea stuck to their mantra of a short, sharp passing game but it failed to present them with many opportunties and their first shot on goal didn't occur until the 25th minute. So Yun Ji curled the effort wide of the far post. Their only other effort of the half came from Hyon Young Lee just before the break, but England skipper Casey Stoney bravely blocked.
The Korean back four and goalkeeper seemed uncertain everytime they came under aerial attack from out wide and Clarke should perhaps have guided on target at least one of Rachel Unitt's two dangerous centres, though she was unable to meet either.
A slow start to the second half ensued as Korea attempted to finally get a foothold in the game, but they didn't test England's 'keeper Siobhan Chamberlain, on for Bardsley at the break, adequately. Hee Young Park tried a shot from distance but it was just too high to trouble the Bristol Academy stopper.
Scott had a similar effort a few minutes before that but it flew harmlessly high and wide. Aluko then climbed above everyone to meet Sue Smith's corner but nodded just past the far post.
Powell made more changes with Steph Houghton and Ellen White coming on for Unitt and Clarke, which pushed Aluko out to wide-right with White occupying the main striker's berth in England's familiar 4-2-3-1 formation.
The Three Lions weren't able to get into their first-half rhythm but were always in control and Scott and Bassett were working well together in the middle of the park.
With ten minutes remaining, Sue Smith gave England some deserved breathing space with her second of the afternoon and this time there was no element of luck involved. She received Kelly Smith's pass across the edge of the box, cut inside on her left foot and curled home beautifully from just inside the 18-yard line.
White had the ball in the net late on but the assistant referee had her flag raised for offside.
It was a solid all-round display from England against a team they drew 0-0 with in the Peace Cup in October and it sends them home from Cyprus on a winning note.
Next up in preparation for Germany 2011 is a friendly against USA on Saturday 2 April at the Matchroom Stadium, home of Leyton Orient.