England Women's U19s share points with France in opening game of European Championship
England 0-0 France
UEFA European Women’s U19 Championship Finals
7pm, Monday 19 August 2013
Stebonheath Park, Llanelli
by Glenn Lavery
Lizzie Durack saved a second-half penalty as England drew 0-0 with France in their opening match of the UEFA European Women’s U19 Championship Finals.
Paige Williams conceded the spot-kick when she was deemed to have handled Marine Daffeur’s left-wing cross inside the area, but the Everton goalkeeper spared her blushes with a fantastic save low to her right.
It was one of three important saves Durack made as Mo Marley’s young side kept a strong France team at bay at Stebonheath Park in Llanelli.
Natasha Flint and Jess Sigsworth had England’s best chances in a hard-fought 90 minutes and the point gained could prove invaluable in their quest to progress beyond the group stage.
Marley fielded seven players that helped England top their qualifying group back in April, though Birmingham City’s Melissa Lawley was forced to miss the opener through suspension.
Windy conditions in south Wales played a part in a stop-start opening period, and the first effort didn’t come until the 16th minute when Declercq played a one-two with Sandie Toletti before prodding narrowly wide of the far post from a tight angle.
England’s opening attempt came moments later via a well controlled Natasha Flint volley which keeper Solene Durand plucked confidently from the air.
Gilles Eyquem’s side contained seven members of Les Bleus’ U17 World Cup-winning squad from 2012 and they enjoyed more of the ball as the first half went on; though aside from a Ghoutia Karchouni shot which whizzed past the upright, they were unable to create much in front of goal.
With half-time approaching, an over-hit cross from Alexandra Atamaniuk threatened to catch out Durack but the Everton stopper watched it all the way and did well to tip it over, ensuring the sides went in goalless at the break.
Durack was alert to another wayward centre early in the second half, this time from substitute Faustine Robert, and turned the ball on to the bar.
She excelled herself moments later when Williams was adjudged to have handled inside the box. Declercq hit the subsequent spot-kick hard and low but Durack got down well to palm the ball away.
In the aftermath of the penalty, England made an attacking change, replacing Flint with the prolific Nikita Parris to provide an outlet up front. And the Three Lions immediately pressed for a winner, as they penned France in their own half for a sustained period for the first time in the match.
With just over 15 minutes remaining, Jess Sigsworth latched on to Jade Bailey’s through ball and forced Durand to narrow the angle and save bravely at the Doncaster player’s feet.
Declercq was seemingly on a one-woman crusade to give her side an opening-day win and she almost grabbed what would almost certainly have been a decisive goal with an audacious 25-yard lob - but Durack got the luck her performance deserved as the ball bounced safely off the post.
Sunderland’s Beth Mead came on for the final ten minutes but neither side was able to make a late breakthrough.
Marley will be happy with the draw and England now move on to Thursday’s tantalising encounter with host nation Wales, who lost their opening game to Denmark.
1 Elizabeth Durack, 2 Martha Harris, 4 Jade Bailey, 5 Aoife Mannion, 6 Paige Williams, 7 Natasha Flint (9 Nikita Parris, 53), 8 Sherry McCue (C), 10 Jess Sigsworth, 11 Hannah Blundell, 16 Meaghan Sargeant, 18 Katie Zelem (17 Beth Mead, 79).
Substitutes not used 13 Megan Walsh, 3 Felicity Gibbons, 14 Abbey-Leigh Stringer, 15 Ellie Stewart.
Coach Mo Marley
1 Solene Durand, 2 Aurelie Gagnet, 3 Marine Dafeur, 4 Aissatou Tounkara, 5 Griedge M’Bock Bathy, 6 Aminata Diallo, 9 Kadidatou Diani (18 Lindsey Thomas 46), 10 Sandie Toletti, 11 Lea Declercq, 14 Ghoutia Karchouni, 17 Alexandra Atamaniuk (7 Faustine Robert, 46).
Substitutes not used 21 Tanya De Souza, 8 Clarisse Le Bihan, 12 Charlene Gorce, 13 Charlotte Saint Sans Levacher.
Coach Gilles Eyquem
Referee Monika Mularczyk (POL)