Powell settles for the point
Sunday, 18 September, 2011
Hope Powell gave credit to Serbia following Saturday's draw.
By Glenn Lavery in Belgrade
Hope Powell paid tribute to Serbia after they came from 2-0 down to earn a point against England in the opening Group 6 qualifier for Euro 2013.
In the 30 degree heat of Belgrade, Rachel Yankey got England off to the perfect start, arriving late at the back post to smash home the opener after just six minutes.
A Violeta Slovic own goal, when trying to clear Ellen White's goalbound diving header, doubled the visitors' advantage midway through the first half and Powell's charges deservedly went in 2-0 up at the break.
But Serbia produced a spirited fightback in the second period and caused England a number of problems. Danka Podovac curled home a delightful 25-yard free-kick in the 55th minute and this gave the Serbs hope. They battled on gamely and got their reward in the fourth minute of added time when Vesna Smiljkovic planted the ball beyond Rachel Brown from the edge of the area.
"I have to give credit to Serbia, especially the way they came back and got the equaliser and the way they performed as they did," said Powell. "They did really well.
"We were expected to win the game - we know that - but we didn't lose it, which is important to note. We got a point."
It appears as though the searing temperature eventually told on England after they dominated the first half, but then struggled to get any real momentum after the break and were forced onto the back foot for spells. However, White, Natasha Dowie and Rachel Williams all had chances to make the game safe and Powell said her side have got to be more precise in front of goal when they take on Slovenia at Swindon's County Ground on Thursday.
"The heat made it very difficult for us," she began. "But that's not an excuse; we had enough opportunities to win the match and in that respect we are disappointed. We were our own worst enemies at times with some sloppy play and we've got to be better in front of goal.
"Obviously we've got to think about the next game now and getting three points to give ourselves the best possible chance to qualify."
The National Coach made five changes to the side that lost on penalties to France in the World Cup quarter final, taking the chance to give some younger players experience of a competitive fixture, and she hopes this will stand them in good stead in the years to come.
"Some of the players that played are clearly players you hope are going to be around in the future and I thought it was a good opportunity to give them experience of a match that means something, in difficult conditions, where points are at stake," she explained.
"The team that went out (against Serbia) were good enough to win the game, they just weren't clinical enough. There are a lot of plusses I can take out of the game, though, and there are also things we can work on."