A lively draw in Paris
Saturday, 20 October, 2012
England's Women round off 2012 with a 2-2 draw against France
England ended 2012 with an entertaining 2-2 draw against France in Paris.
The Three Lions had to weather an early onslaught from their rapidly improving opponents, and goalkeeper Karen Bardsley was kept particularly busy.
But two goals in five minutes, a Steph Houghton free-kick and a Jill Scott header, saw England take a 2-0 lead into the break.
France continued to press after the restart, though, and Marie Delie pounced on a weak Toni Duggan back pass to halve the deficit just before the hour.
Delie also netted the equaliser eight minutes from time, lobbing the ball over substitute goalkeeper Siobhan Chamberlain.
Both nations were using this match as their first piece of preparation for next summer’s European Championship Finals and both coaches can take positives into the New Year.
It was the French who started better and they took control early on. With two days worth of rain laying on the pitch, they were keen to test Bardsley’s handling in the slippery conditions.
Their playmaker Louisa Necib and forwards Delie and Eugénie Le Sommer all tried their luck from distance but England’s goalkeeper gathered each one rather comfortably.
And only for a poor touch by Delie when clear through the middle, the hosts could have taken the lead in just the 12th minute.
Gaëtane Thiney then forced Bardsley to turn a decent effort around the post, again from range, as Bruno Bini’s charges continued to seek an early advantage.
However, France’s best chance to break the deadlock came just before the half-hour mark.
Delie burst down the right wing, into the area and pulled the ball back to Le Sommer, who should have produced a simple finish from just inside the six-yard box instead of attempting an impudent flick which got caught under her feet.
Alex Scott cleared Le Sommer’s next effort off the line and Delie should have converted the loose ball but somehow managed to poke the ball wide from even closer in.
And England soon made France pay for their wastefulness.
The French ‘keeper, Sarah Bouhaddi, was penalised for handling the ball outside the box and when the free-kick was rolled to her, Houghton smashed the ball into the roof of the net to put the Three Lions ahead.
Things got even better for Hope Powell’s side just five minutes later, as Jill Scott met Rachel Yankey’s delicious left-wing cross and planted a header into the back of the net for a quick-fire second that stunned the French.
Anita Asante and Duggan, on for Yankey, had half-chances to extend England’s lead shortly after the restart but it took more smart defending from the Three Lions’ right-back to keep the clean sheet intact.
Birthday girl Sophie Bradley mistimed her jump inside the box and could only watch as the ball bounced over her head. Delie outmuscled Houghton but Alex Scott was quick on the cover to block the shot behind for a corner.
France eventually did get their goal and it came from the lively Delie in the 59th minute. Duggan tried to play a pass back to Bardsley, but the French forward intercepted and knocked the ball underneath the ‘keeper and into the empty net.
‘Les Bleus’ would have grabbed an equaliser soon after, had Le Sommer’s fierce shot not been straight at Bardsley as England failed to clear their lines.
Duggan, who looked bright going forward, appeared keen to make amends for her earlier mistake and she provided her side with some respite with a couple of decent long range efforts, but they were both just off target.
Bardsley had been impressive all game and her last action before being replaced by Chamberlain was to deny the French yet again, as she turned Necib’s low drive round her left-hand upright.
A French equaliser had looked likely as the game wore on and it duly arrived in the 82nd minute.
There was a moment of hesitation between Casey Stoney and substitute Laura Bassett, on for Bradley, and Delie nipped in to lift the ball over Chamberlain to salvage a deserved draw.
England and France now await the Euro 2013 draw which takes place in Sweden on Friday 9 November.