Mark Sampson's England reign starts with draw in La Manga

Friday 17 Jan 2014
Eniola Aluko scored the first goal of Mark Sampson's England reign.

Melissa Bjaneso’s 87th-minute header denied England’s Women victory in Mark Sampson’s first game in charge.

The 31-year-old replaced Hope Powell in December and Eniola Aluko’s 10th-minute goal was almost enough to defeat Euro 2013 runners-up Norway in La Manga.

But Bjaneso’s late intervention denied Sampson that privilege although he can still be satisfied with the manner of his team’s performance, as they certainly did enough to win the game.


England 1-1 Norway

Women's International Match
2pm, Friday 17 January
La Manga, Spain



Jordan Nobbs, Fara Williams and Lianne Sanderson all registered decent efforts at goal.

Norway had chances, too, and England goalkeeper Karen Bardsley was forced to make three very good saves.

Sampson can be pleased though, as he begins what he hopes to be a long and successful era at the helm.

The new Head Coach gave a senior team debut to left-back Demi Stokes and he handed the captain's armband to Steph Houghton, though he won’t make a decision on his permanent skipper until after the Cyprus Cup in March.

In all, he made four changes from England's last game, a 4-0 World Cup qualifying win in Turkey in October. Sanderson made her first appearance since March 2010, replacing Ellen White up front, Houghton came in for Gemma Bonner, Stokes for Sophie Bradley and Karen Carney for Jill Scott.

The Three Lions started the better of the two sides, with Nobbs and Carney firing shots off target early on.

And it took just ten minutes for Aluko to score the first goal of Sampson’s reign.

England Women

It was an impressive result in Mark Sampson's first game.


The Chelsea attacker drove into the box after collecting Carney’s pass, cut back onto her right foot and bent a shot towards the far corner, and Norway’s 17-year-old debutant goalkeeper Cecile Fiskarstrand was beaten after the ball deflected off her captain Trine Ronning and looped into the net.

The game became a bit disjointed after the opener, but Bardsley stayed alert and pulled off a top-class reaction save to deny Elise Thorsnes from close range midway through the first half.

Sampson’s new side brushed off that scare as Fara Williams cracked a shot inches wide of the post and Nobbs forced Fiskarstrand to parry away a fierce 25-yard drive.

Ronning almost had the misfortune of deflecting another shot into her own net in an attempt to clear Nobbs’s right-wing cross just before the break, but the ball crept just wide of the far post.

Norway predictably started the second half on the front foot with Thorsnes shooting narrowly wide on 53 and Kristine Minde forcing Bardsley to turn an angled drive over the bar shortly after.

Sanderson then came close to doubling England’s lead on the hour mark after being found by Stokes’ deep, left-wing cross but her header was well saved by Fiskarstrand.

Watch England training earlier this week


The European finalists came again, though, and after Nobbs’ attempted through ball to substitute White was cut out, Norway started a counter-attack, leading to Ada Stolmso Hegerberg calling Bardsley into action for the third time. Manchester City’s new signing stood firm and repelled the effort at her near post.

But they did manage to find a late equaliser through substitute Bjaneso, who headed home a right-sided corner from ten yards out.

England could still have won the game in the dying embers, as Houghton shot wide and White struck an overhead kick just over the bar.

It wasn’t to be however and Sampson opens his international account with a credible draw against top-quality opposition.

1 Karen Bardsley, 2 Alex Scott, 3 Demi Stokes (18 Gemma Bonner, 61), 4 Fara Williams, 5 Steph Houghton (C), 6 Lucy Bronze, 7 Eniola Aluko (17 Jill Scott, 68), 8 Jordan Nobbs (14 Laura Bassett, 76), 9 Lianne Sanderson (15 Ellen White, 68), 10 Karen Carney, 11 Toni Duggan (16 Gemma Davison, 79).

Substitutes not used: 12 Alex Greenwood, 13 Siobhan Chamberlain.

Head Coach: Mark Sampson

12 Cecile Fiskarstrand, 6 Maren Mjelde (20 Catherine Hogh Dekkerhus, 46), 7 Trine Ronning (C) (2 Marita Skammelsrud Lund, 46), 8 Ada Stolmso Hegerberg, 10 Caroline Graham Hansen (21 Ingrid Schjelderup, 46), 11 Nora Holstad Berge, 13 Guro Reiten, 14 Andrine Tomter, 16 Elise Thorsnes (9 Melissa Bjaneso, 71), 17 Kristine Minde, 18 Lene Mykjaland.

Substitutes not used: 1 Nora Neset Gjoen, 3 Ingrid Moe Wold, 5 Anja Sonstevold.

Head Coach: Even Pellerud

Referee: Elia Maria Martinez

By Glenn Lavery La Manga, Spain