Rachel Unitt scored twice as England came from behind to beat the Czech Republic 4-1 in Walsall.
England 4-1 Czech Republic
Bescot Stadium, Walsall FC
26 May 2005, 7.45pm
Local girl Rachel Unitt scored twice as England came from behind to wrap up their Women’s Euro 2005 build-up with a tremendous second half performance that brought them a ninth win in ten matches.
Ten days ahead of their opening Euro fixture against Finland at the City of Manchester Stadium, Hope Powell’s team started sluggishly and were a goal behind at the break.
But they were a different proposition after the interval, taking complete control and winning the game with a devastating spell of four goals in 13 minutes.
Substitutes Kelly Smith and Eniola Aluko added to the double strike of Everton left back Unitt, who lives just two miles from Bescot Stadium.
England had started the game with a line-up showing two changes from the recent win against Norway, Charlton Athletic midfielder Katie Chapman returning after injury and Everton winger Jody Handley after being rested.
Memories of the first ever victory over the Norwegians were soon forgotten, however, as England went behind after just 16 minutes.
Six minutes earlier goalkeeper Jo Fletcher had been forced into a diving save from a 20-yard effort by midfielder Eva Smeralova.
But Fletcher had to pick the ball out of her net after being beaten by Gabriela Chlumecka, who sent a looping header over the Birmingham City keeper following a free-kick to the far post by her strike partner Pavlina Scasna.
England hit back quickly and almost equalised in the 20th minute, when Chapman slipped a short pass to fellow midfielder Fara Williams for a 15-yard shot that was acrobatically tipped over the bar by keeper Zuzana Pincova.
England began to enjoy more possession from that point but failed to trouble Pincova again until the 38th minute, the keeper this time spilling a low cross by Birmingham winger Rachel Yankey and central defender Dagmar Urbancova having to hurriedly turn the ball for a corner.
As play moved towards half-time Emily Westwood sent a 20-yard snap shot over the bar, but that was the last action seen by the Wolves midfielder as she became one of four players who were substituted at the interval.
Westwood was replaced by Arsenal striker Smith, who like substitute goalkeeper Rachel Brown has spent most of the season recovering from injury. Teenagers Karen Carney and Aluko took over from Jody Handley and Amanda Barr respectively.
England pushed forward from the restart and went close to equalising in the 55th minute, when Williams fired in a 30-yard free-kick but was again denied by the fingertips ofPincova.
Two minutes later the keeper had to be stretchered off after a mid-air collision with Chapman and her substitute, Marcela Zborilova, was soon under pressure as the home side stepped up the tempo.
The equaliser arrived in 65th minute, Unitt stooping to head home a viciously curling corner by Yankey, and at that point the floodgates opened.
Four minutes later Smith put England in front with a spectacular goal, striking a superb 40-yard shot over the stranded Zborilova and into the roof of the net.
Unitt added her second goal in the 73rd minute, climbing to head Carney’s perfectly flighted free-kick into the net, then four minutes later Aluko collected a loose ball on the edge of the penalty area to expertly direct an angled shot into the far corner.
Carney, Smith and right back Alex Scott all went close to increasing the lead as England coasted to another morale boosting victory ahead of the Euro finals, which kick off on Sunday 05 June.
England Women Seniors v Czech Republic, 26 May 2005
England: Josephine Fletcher - Birmingham City (Rachel Brown - Everton, 45), Alex Scott - Birmingham City, Faye White - Arsenal (Lindsay Johnson - Everton, 76), Mary Phillip - Arsenal, Rachel Unitt - Everton; Katie Chapman - Charlton Athletic (Vicky Exley - Doncaster Rovers Belles, 74), Emily Westwood - Wolves (Kelly Smith - Arsenal, 45), Fara Williams - Everton; Jody Handley - Everton (Karen Carney - Birmingham City, 45), Amanda Barr - Birmingham City (Eniola Aluko - Charlton Athletic, 45), Rachel Yankey - Birmingham City.
Subs not used: Stoney (Charlton Athletic), Asante (Arsenal), Hall (Fulham).
Czech Republic: Pincova (Zborilova, 57); Hofekova, Bertholdova, Urbancova, Hejlova (I. Matinkova, 68); L. Martinkova (Stojkovicova, 61), Penickova, Smeralova (Danielova, 74), Mouchova; Scasna, Chlumeka (Mocova, 79).
Subs not used: Marconova, Skupinova.
Referee: Mr A. Wiley (Staffordshire).