Hard-earned point in Holland
Thursday, 27 October, 2011
England draw 0-0 in Zwolle, and penalty miss denies them all three points.
By Glenn Lavery in Zwolle
England achieved what could prove to be a valuable 0-0 draw away to Holland, though it might have been a victory had Fara Williams converted a 50th-minute penalty.
The visitors were forced onto the back foot for most of the game, but they defended resolutely throughout and goalkeeper Karen Bardsley refused to be beaten, allowing the Three Lions to fly home with a hard-earned point.
But when Williams was felled by Dutch goalkeeper Loes Geurts just minutes into the second half England had the chance to snatch a win. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be as Geurts made up for her misdemeanour by saving the spot-kick.
England remain second in Euro 2013 qualifying Group 6, two points behind Holland but they still have to play the Dutch at home next summer.
Holland had the better of the first half, with the prolific Manon Melis (40 international goals in 82 appearances) providing a constant threat up front. Early on, the Dutch attempted to get the ball wide to Sylvia Smit who sought Melis with crosses from the right. Twice, though, the No.9 headed wide of Bardsley’s far post.
In just the second minute, Sophie Bradley had been forced to block a shot from Melis on the edge of the England box and Smit later saw an angled drive saved by Bardsley, the first of many she would make in the game.
On FC Zwolle’s artificial pitch, which was watered before kick-off, England attempted a number of through balls for Ellen White, foraging up front on her own, Jill Scott and Karen Carney to run on to, but each of them were left frustrated by the assistant referee’s flag. Rachel Yankey, though, was not troubled by the flag and registered the visitors’ first shot on target, though Geurts claimed comfortably.
The Dutch were on top but the game lost some of its fluency midway through the half and there was a distinct lack of chances until half-time approached, when first Sherida Spitse and then Melis shot wide of the target.
In an attempt to get more into the game, National Coach Hope Powell made one change at the break, replacing Jess Clarke with Steph Houghton. Houghton joined Williams in central midfield, Carney moved wide right and Jill Scott was pushed further forward to play in behind White.
If the first half was fairly uneventful, the opening five minutes of the second promised much more. In the 50th minute, an England through ball eventually found its target as Carney played Williams into the area only for the midfielder to be tripped as she rounded Geurts. The referee pointed to the spot and booked Geurts, but Williams’ penalty was fairly weak and the Dutch stopper made amends, diving low to her left to gather.
Holland went straight up the other end and might have taken the lead through Melis, but Bardsley made a fine stop to keep the scores goalless. The home crowd of almost 9,000 were now buoyant and Martens was the next player to call Bardsley into action, forcing England’s No.1 to tip a shot over the bar.
The hosts sensed a goal and their captain, Daphne Koster, will have been disappointed to have headed Mandy van den Berg’s 65th-minute free-kick wide from six yards out. And Kirsten van de Ven cut in from the right to fire a left-footed shot goalwards; again, though, Bardsley was equal to it.
England were not be totally outdone, though, and a good spell of possession moments later allowed Carney to seek out Houghton with a deep cross, but the substitute couldn’t quite get enough on it to cause Geurts a problem. Alex Scott came a lot closer as the game entered its final ten minutes when she fired narrowly over the bar from 20 yards following White’s lay-off.
There was still time for a minor scare for Powell’s charges though, when Bradley, who had been excellent all evening, deflected van de Ven’s shot just over the frame of the goal. For a moment it looked like the ball had dropped just under the bar, fooling half the stadium, but luckily for England it went behind for a corner.
That was the last real action of the game and when the referee’s whistle sounded it allowed England to walk away with what might turn out to be a crucial point on the road to Sweden 2013.
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