England suffered their first defeat of the season despite Rebecca Spencer's heroics in goal.
England 1-3 France
Women's U19 International Friendly
7.45pm, Tuesday 30 October 2007
Harrogate Town France condemned the Young Lions to their first defeat of the season, despite the heroics of goalkeeper Rebecca Spencer.
The Arsenal stopper made a string of fines saves to frustrate the visitors, but could do nothing about three stunning goals which handed France victory at Harrogate.
It all looked so optimistic for Mo Marley's side when Remi Allen put her team ahead with a fine lob, but Eugenie Le Sommer, Aurelie Kaci and Laura Agard netted sublimely to break English hearts.
After the Wetherby Silver Band did a fine job of playing the national anthems, the teams, who met as recently as last summer in the U19 European Championship, got down to business.
England began well and won an early corner after a slick move on the right concluded with Jessica Clarke bursting down the flank before being thwarted.
A number of committed challenges warmed the cockles of the enthusiastic crowd, which included England Women's Head Coach Hope Powell. One punishing tackle by Gilly Flaherty midway through the half made a handful of hardened souls in the pressbox – the sort who have seen it all before - wince.
The visitors certainly had the height advantage. England forward Allen was dwarfed by her marker Wendie Renard, while the central midfield pair of captain Chloe Mazaloubeaud and Oceane Cairity stood head and shoulders above their English opponents.
The Young Lions had a good shout for a penalty turned down when Clarke, who plays for Leeds United, connected with a bicycle kick which appeared to strike the hand of Agard. English hands went up in appeal but the referee was not interested, waving away their pleas.
Play then switched to the other end as Spencer dashed from her goal to clear but could only head as far as Le Sommer whose volley went well wide.
Le Sommer went even closer seconds later, cutting in from the left flank before unleashing a powerful drive which Spencer did extremely well to tip over the bar.
Spencer made an even better save from Le Sommer as the French continued to threaten. After Les Bleus attacked with vigour down the right, a low cross fell invitingly to the tricky winger who connected sweetly only to see the Arsenal stopper make a supreme save from close range.
But it was England who took the lead on 18 minutes. Allen might be diminutive compared with her opponents, but she is clearly a talent with the ball at her feet. Latching on to a long pass, the Leicester City forward sprinted clear before executing a wonderfully controlled lob over French 'keeper Meline Gerard who was left clutching at the night sky.
But England’s lead lasted just a minute. Le Sommer, the player of the half, darted in from the left before firing an arrow of a shot into the bottom corner.
Allen went close to her second goal midway through the half after good work by Ellen White but Gerard was alert to the danger this time, rushing off her line to save bravely.
The end-to-end theme continued with Le Sommer spurning a good chance, heading wide from a right wing cross after escaping the attentions of Jayne Eadie.
France went close to taking the lead for the first time as the interval loomed, when Renard rose highest to head a corner towards goal which England hacked clear.
The Harrogate Hornets cheerleaders kept the crowd entertained during the break but it wasn’t long before the players returned to action.
England had a fine chance to begin the second half in perfect style but White, shunning Allen to her left when she might have passed, dragged her shot wide.
The increasingly influential White went closer minutes later, when she glanced the tenacious Sophie Walton's precise cross just wide.
France replied with a chance of their own on the hour with Sarah Chorfa lifting a header just over the bar.
Spencer made yet another fine stop to deny Le Sommer on 68 minutes. White, at the wrong end of the field, was caught daydreaming at the back post by the French number 11 who stole in but watched in shock as the English 'keeper spread herself to block.
But there was nothing Spencer could do to prevent England falling behind a minute later. Le Sommer picked out substitute Kaci who kept her cool to lift the ball over the advancing 'keeper.
England's task looked impossible with eight minutes remaining. The hosts cleared Gwenaelle Butel's corner only as far as the taker, who rolled a low cross to Agard who drilled home a stunning strike from the edge of the box.England:
1 Rebecca Spencer (12 Chelsea Weston, 62 mins), 2 Jayne Eadie, 3 Georgie Giddings, 4 Sophie Walton (17 Faye McCoy, 85 mins), 5 Gilly Flaherty, 6 Sophie Bradley, 7 Jessica Clarke, 8 Elizabeth Edwards (14 Brooke Chaplen, 62 mins), 9 Ellen White, 10 Remi Allen (18 Michelle Hinnigan, 90 mins), 11 Claire Rafferty (16 Toni Duggan, 58 mins).Subs not used:
13 Helen Alderson, 15 Gemma Bonner.Head Coach:
1 Meline Gerard, 2 Jennifer Brocheray (15 Sophie Legros, 74 mins), 3 Charlotte Bilbault, 4 Wendie Renard (12 Audrey Fevrier, 77 mins), 5 Laura Agard, 6 Chloe Mazaloubeaud (14 Aude Moreau, 64 mins), 7 Gwenaelle Butel, 8 Oceane Cairaty, 9 Julie Machart (13 Gwendoline Rossi, 74 mins), 10 Sarah Chorfa (17 Aurelie Kaci, 64 mins), 11 Eugenie Le Sommer.Subs not used:
16 Marine Fromartin, 18 Fanny Tenret.Head Coach:
S IhringovaAssistant referees:
L Rashid & H Fulcher-WardFourth Official: