England see off Serbs
Wednesday, 23 November, 2011
Goals from Jess Clarke and Ellen White seal win in Doncaster.
By Glenn Lavery at Keepmoat Stadium
A goal either side of half-time gave England a comfortable 2-0 victory over Serbia in their fourth Euro 2013 qualifier.
Jess Clarke finished off a nice move on 41 minutes to put the hosts ahead and Ellen White grabbed the second from close range after Karen Carney’s initial shot was blocked.
This win puts England back into second place in Group 6, above the Serbs, two points behind Holland but with the Dutch still to come to England in June next year. This victory also went some way to avenging Serbia’s late, late equaliser in September. The visitors had one good chance at 0-0 and did enjoy some good possession at times, but ultimately lacked the quality to hurt England.
England seized the initiative right from the off, seemingly keen to make amends for that added time equaliser in Belgrade the last time the two sides met. The hosts won possession from the Serbian centre and broke forward until Clarke was bundled over in the area, but Russian referee Natalia Avdonchenko dismissed half-hearted England appeals.
Clarke was at the heart of the first real opening, exchanging passes with Alex Scott before sending a cross into the near post where White was unmarked, but her header landed on the roof of the net.
Carney, playing in behind White, was trying to get on the ball as much as possible and had two efforts at goal early on herself, one straight at Serbian ‘keeper Milena Vukovic and one wide of the target. Rachel Yankey was also guilty of shooting straight at Vukovic minutes later after an excellent cross-field through ball from Fara Williams found Rachel Unitt out on the left.
England were on top but the visitors almost made them pay for their profligacy after quarter of an hour. Their first chance was hitherto the best chance of the match as they cultivated a good passing move through midfield allowing Vesna Smiljkovic to cross for Jovana Damnjanovic, who was arriving late in the box, but the left-back was thwarted by a great save from Karen Bardsley who got down smartly to block.
Luckily, though, this opportunity appeared to act as a wake-up call for Hope Powell’s side and they soon regained control, as Yankey struck Vukovic’s near post with an angled drive. As the 30-minute mark approached, there were chances, too, for White, Carney and Jill Scott, who hit the side netting, but the Three Lions were still unable to carve out an opening.
That was until just before the break when Clarke won the ball from Damnjanovic out on the right and played it to White who skipped past her marker beautifully. White found Yankey on the edge of the box and she touched it off to Clarke who passed the ball into the corner of the net.
Unitt might have doubled the lead just two minutes later with a right-foot volley, but Vukovic turned the ball away for a corner.
The advantage was doubled, though, just six minutes after half-time as Yankey’s ball across the box went all the way to Clarke at the far post. The winger pulled the ball back across goal for Carney whose shot was saved but the rebound fell kindly to White, who finished with aplomb.
The home side continued in the second half where they left off in the first, but they failed to fashion as many chances until Yankey flashed a shot over the bar with her right foot from 20 yards after 65 minutes. And Jill Scott had another crack at goal soon after but Vukovic was in the way yet again.
The crowd were lifted by the 70th-minute introduction of Kelly Smith, on for Yankey, who donned an England shirt for the first time since the World Cup, and Steph Houghton, who scored in the 4-0 defeat of Slovenia at the County Ground, also entered the fray, for Williams, as England continued to press in an attempt to extend their two-goal lead.
Although tidy in possession, Serbia were unable to trouble Bardsley in the second half, save for a Marija Radojicic shot on 81 minutes which flew over the bar.
England would have perhaps liked an even more comfortable margin of victory, but the three points was the most important thing to keep them in touch with Holland at the top of Group 6 at the halfway stage of qualifying.