Clarke on the mark to win it for England
Friday, 01 July, 2011
England come from behind to beat New Zealand in Dresden.
Glenn Lavery in Dresden
Jess Clarke grabbed the winning goal with just nine minutes remaining on the clock as Hope Powell's side were made to sweat for their first three points of the World Cup.
New Zealand came into the game as underdogs, but despite being under the cosh for most of the opening exchanges they took the lead through a breakaway goal from Sarah Gregorius.
Coming against the run of play the goal did seem to stun the England players who didn't overly threaten for the remainder of the first half, but came out firing in the second period and a header from Jill Scott just after the hour mark was reward for their stubborn persistance.
It became even more one-sided as England piled on the pressure and it eventually told when Clarke rammed the ball into the roof of the net from Jill Scott's short pass inside the area, to the delight of the entire squad.
National Coach Hope Powell made one change from the team that drew with Mexico on Monday, replacing Karen Carney with Ellen White, meaning Eniola Aluko was shifted from her role as the lone striker to a wide right berth.
And just like on Monday, England started the match the brighter of the two teams. They forced New Zealand onto the back foot from the off and won a succession of early corners, the fourth of which was headed wide by Jill Scott.
There was a minor scare for Kelly Smith who limped away with what looked like an ankle injury, following a coming together with the New Zealand 'keeper Jenny Bindon, but thankfully she returned to the fray fairly soon after.
Ellen White, making her first start in a major tournament, almost capitalised on a slip from Kiwi skipper Rebecca Smith in the 12th minute but her shot was eventually blocked for a corner. Almost immediately after, Fara Williams, who scored against Mexico, tested Bindon from range but the 'keeper got both palms to the ball to prevent it from flying in the top corner.
New Zealand then had their first spell of possesion, during which time they took the lead. Betsy Hassett fed a through ball into the left side of the box for Amber Hearn, who got to the byeline and pulled it across goal towards Gregorius. The Kiwi No.10 had got in between Casey Stoney and Rachel Unitt and she bundled home from six yards.
On Thursday, Powell had called this a 'must not lose' game and Williams set about trying to redress the balance as soon as possible, but her left-footer from just outside the area drifted narrowly wide. Rachel Yankey was the next player to try her luck, followed by Smith, but both efforts were off target, too.
England had regained control of possession but were unable to convert their territorial advantage into clear-cut chances and they might have been punished were it not for a last ditch tackle by Unitt. Stoney had been unable to cut out Hearn's through ball to Gregorius, but, just as she was about to pull the trigger Unitt slid in to block and tipped the ball towards Karen Bardsley.
Once more England came again, Aluko crossing for White, who was arriving at the near post, but the 23-year-old could only prod the ball over the bar. The last action of the half was a deflected shot from Smith which Bindon gathered quite comfortably and England left the field at half-time knowing they had to create more after the interval.
But it was the 'Football Ferns' who started the second half better and Hearn was a whisker away from doubling their lead with a far post header, from Gregorius's cross, which dipped onto the roof of the net.
With England searching for the equaliser they kept hold of the ball for long periods and restricted New Zealand to the odd counter attack. Eventually this pressure told on 63 minutes when Alex Scott's deep centre was met in the air by Jill Scott. The tall midfielder climbed above Abby Erceg and found the top corner with an accurate header.
Smith came close to scoring a quick-fire second but her 20-yard attempt flashed inches past the upright.
Sensing the need to score a second of their own, John Herdman's side ventured into England's half more than they had previously, leading to Ali Riley centring for substitute Rosie White but the ball was just behind her and she was unable to connect.
Clarke was brought on in place of Yankey in the 66th minute and it took her just 15 minutes to make an impact, as she scored what would prove to be the winner.
After White had seen a firm shot well parried by Bindon, the ball was forced out to England's left flank where Unitt swung over a cross to the far post. Jill Scott coolly took the ball under control before laying it off to Clarke who thumped the pass into the roof of the net.
England now face Japan on Tuesday in Augsburg, when the winner will take top spot in the group.