VIDEO: Lions on course in Croatia
Saturday, 31 March, 2012
Six goals with no reply for Hope Powell's side in Croatia.
By Glenn Lavery in Croatia
Watch all the goals here
A comfortable 6-0 dismissal of Croatia has kept England on course to finish top of their Euro 2013 qualifying group, on a day when Rachel Unitt celebrated her 100th international cap with one of the goals.
Rachel Williams put Hope Powell's side ahead in just the fourth minute, a lead Jess Clarke doubled after quarter of an hour.
Then came Unitt's moment of glory. With the captain's armband already adorning her sleeve as a memento of her special day, the left-back went one further and got herself on the scoresheet with a diving header.
Ellen White grabbed a fourth from close range and Steph Houghton made it 5-0 before the break with a tap in. Houghton doubled her own tally and completed the scoring in the 68th minute with a 25-yard free-kick.
It was a totally dominant performance from the visitors who, in truth, could have won by an even greater margin of victory and it was their biggest win since May 2010 when they put six unanswered goals past Malta.
This win keeps England in second place behind Holland in Group 6 and has also helped improve their goal difference. They are just two points behind the Dutch, who will visit England in June for what is now looking like a potential group decider. Only the top-placed team are guaranteed a place at next year's Finals in Sweden.
England knew a win in Croatia was crucial to keep the pressure on Holland and they couldn't have wished for a better start.
After missing a good chance a minute earlier, when escaping the Croatian offside trap, Rachel Williams soon made amends by meeting Karen Carney's corner and heading the visitors into an early lead.
White had guided a presentable chance over the bar, following a tidy interchange with Carney, but then Clarke doubled the lead on 15 minutes, beating the Croatian 'keeper from a tight angle after being played in by Carney.
Carney was proving instrumental in her role just behind lone striker Rachel Williams and she grabbed herself a third assist just three minutes later, delivering a delicious cross to the far post for Unitt to head home unmarked.
Rachel Williams had a header well saved by Croatian 'keeper Nicole Vuk as England kept the pressure on and White made this pressure further tell after 35 minutes, cooly finishing from close range after being released by Rachel Williams.
The two Williams then combined as Fara crossed for Rachel at the far post, but Vuk excelled herself to keep the ball out.
Vuk denied Rachel Williams for a third time but was helpless to prevent Houghton tapping the rebound into an empty net on the stroke of half-time.
With Fara Williams and Carney carrying bookings from previous qualifiers, and with Holland up next, they were substituted at the break in order to avoid a potential suspension in June. Jade Moore and Anita Asante, respectively, came on in their place.
The Three Lions were soon into their stride after the restart, controlling possession and forcing their hosts onto the back foot at every given opportunity, and White came close to a sixth goal on 55 minutes, smashing Alex Scott's pass against Vuk's legs.
Houghton, though, did make it 6-0 with a wonderfully executed 25-yard free-kick which she curled right footed into the far corner.
Clarke came close to scoring a seventh when her 20-yarder was tipped onto the bar by Vuk, who will feel hard done by being on the end of such a heavy defeat. She won another duel with Williams in the game's dying embers, keeping out another far post header from the striker in the 86th minute.
Croatia never really had a clear sight at goal during the whole game and Alex Scott was only required to mop up two right-wing crosses in the first half as Dean Klafuric's side were completely blown away.
Still unbeaten in Euro 2013 qualifying, this resounding victory means England will be full of confidence when they entertain Holland in June for another vital qualifier.