The England Women's team have lost 5-3 on penalties after drawing 0-0 with China.
England 0-0 China
(China win 5-3 on penalties)
The Algarve Cup, 7th/8th Place Play-Off
15 March 2005, 10.00
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England produced their best performance of the Algarve Cup but ironically, following comfortable victories in all three of their group games, they lost 5-3 on penalties to China after the play-off match for seventh place had ended goalless.
Due to the structure of the tournament England, even as Group C winners, were unable to finish any higher than seventh. China had finished bottom of Group B, whose winners America are set to meet Group A winners Germany in the final.
At sixth in the FIFA world rankings China sit eight places higher than England, but Hope Powell’s team made light of the perceived gap and controlled the majority of a game played in strength-sapping heat on a bumpy Guia pitch.
Scoring opportunities were squandered though, and after substitute Eni Aluko had unluckily had a 79th minute goal disallowed through a harsh foot-up decision, what could have been a seventh successive victory ended in a disappointing shoot-out defeat.
"The standard of officiating at the tournament hasn’t been the best," noted National Coach Powell, "but you can’t dwell on a decision that’s cost you a goal. We should have won the game in the first half.
"We didn’t do as well with our finishing as we did in previous matches, but that’s a lesson for us. We battled well though, and we matched a very good side. That sort of performance was the standard I was looking for."
The standard was set in the early stages, when England impressed but Birmingham City winger Rachel Yankey missed a couple of chances to open the scoring before striker Zhan Tong forced Birmingham goalkeeper Jo Fletcher into a good 17th minute save.
A minute later England should have gone ahead but, from 12 yards, Everton midfielder Fara Williams shot wide of the target from Yankey’s cross following good work by Wolves midfielder Emily Westwood.
Another fine opening went begging in the 33rd minute, when Everton striker Jody Handley volleyed over from eight yards after Birmingham striker Amanda Barr had helped on another Yankey cross.
A minute into first half stoppage time Williams went close, driving a 20 yard shot just wide of the far post after a dangerously curling cross from Handley had been only half-cleared by the Chinese defence.
Powell’s team almost paid for their profligacy nine minutes into the second period, when midfielder Shi Mengyu sent Han Duan clear and Fletcher had to make an excellent save from the striker’s 15 yard shot.
After a shaky start to the second half England regained control and thought they had gone ahead 11 minutes from time, only for Charlton Athletic’s Aluko to have her effort ruled out when she hooked substitute Karen Carney’s corner into the net.
When the game went into penalties England made a bad start, Birmingham right back Alex Scott having her spot kick saved after central defender Li Jie had netted with the first effort of the shoot-out.
England then scored three successive penalties through Everton left back Rachel Unitt, Arsenal central defender Mary Phillip and Williams, but China netted all five of theirs to claim seventh place.
Frustrating though it was to see her team lose a shoot-out after being on top for most of the match, Powell was pleased with not only the performance but also, three months before the Women’s Euro 2005, the way they handled themselves in Portugal.
"It’s been very good tournament experience for us ahead of the Euros," said the National Coach, "and the standard we’ve produced proves that we can go forward – not just for the Women’s Euro 2005 but into the next World Cup and beyond.
"Their displays over here will certainly give the girls added confidence in our preparations for the Euros, but we’ll need to build on that display to make certain we are ready for the tournament itself."
England XI v China, Algarve Cup, 15 March 2005
China (4-4-2): Zhen (Yanru HT); Huana, Jie, Yongxia, Ying; Liping, Mengyu (Lina 55), Feifei (Wei 55), Xiaoyan; Tong (Ting 65), Duan (Ouying 65).
England: Fletcher (Birmingham City), Scott (Birmingham City), Unitt (Everton), Johnson (Everton), Phillip (Arsenal), Handley (Everton), Williams (Everton), Chapman (Charlton Athletic), Yankey (Birmingham City); Westwood (Wolves); Barr (Birmingham City)
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