Wednesday, 19 September, 2012
A 3-0 win over Croatia books England's Women a place at Euro 2013
by Glenn Lavery at Banks's Stadium
England have qualified for the UEFA Women’s Euro 2013 Finals after a 3-0 win over Croatia in Walsall.
The Three Lions came into the game knowing a victory would catapult them to the top of Group 6 and an automatic spot in Sweden next summer, and they sealed their progress in fairly comfortable fashion.
It should have been a greater margin of victory, but Croatia goalkeeper Doris Bacic saved her side’s blushes with a string of stops, and there was further cause for celebration for Rachel Yankey who earned her 120th cap, a record for the England Women’s team.
Having beaten the Croats 6-0 in March, it took 21 minutes for Hope Powell’s side to get off the mark at Banks’s Stadium when Jill Scott tapped home a rebound from close range.
Eniola Aluko made it 2-0 early in the second half by prodding the ball into the back of the net and skipper Casey Stoney sealed the win, and a place at the Euros, in the final ten minutes, rifling home Karen Carney’s cross from the edge of the area.
The hosts started brightly, quickly seizing control of the ball and forcing Croatia onto the back foot from the off, though Dean Klafuric’s side were far better than six months ago when they capitulated early.
In the seventh minute, Carney called Bacic into action for the first time with a wicked, curling effort.
Yankey had the chance to mark her record-breaking appearance with a goal when she was played in by Aluko midway through the first half, but the winger lacked composure and blazed over with her right foot.
Less than a minute later, though, England went ahead and it was a true poacher’s finish from Jill Scott. Aluko saw her low shot spilled by Bacic and the Everton midfielder turned home the loose ball from a matter of yards.
Then Carney, who has featured in every qualifier and who was impressive throughout, providing impetus and creativity going forward, sent over a teasing cross from the right which an unmarked Yankey failed to head on target.
Croatia only had one real effort of note in the whole game, an angled drive by Katarina Kolar towards the end of the first half which Karen Bardsley parried away.
A place at Euro 2013 was effectively sealed just two minutes into the second half. Yankey found Aluko inside the box and the Birmingham forward guided the ball into the far corner with the outside of her right foot.
It might have got even better just five minutes later when some delightful build-up play led to Carney trying her luck from an acute angle, but the ball struck the foot of the far upright.
Alex Scott had an effort palmed over by Babic, who later blocked from Carney, tipped Anita Asante’s shot onto the post and denied debutant Toni Duggan, on for Yankey, late on.
But Stoney stepped up to put a gloss on the scoreline by drilling home Carney’s low cut back from 18 yards.
England made life difficult for themselves by drawing their opening qualifier away to unfancied Serbia, but they have bounced back magnificently, registering six wins and a goalless draw in Holland in their remaining group games.
Powell has now guided her charges to a fifth consecutive appearance at a major tournament, and after finishing as runners-up at Euro 2009 the National Coach will now be determined to go one step further and claim some silverware in Sweden next summer.