Mark Sampson says Lionesses are still on track after draw

Saturday 09 Apr 2016
Mark Sampson has led England to fourth in the FIFA rankings
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Mark Sampson saw enough from his England side in their 1-1 draw with Belgium to convince him they are still on track for Euro glory.

The Lionesses trailed for most of Friday night’s qualifier after goalkeeper Karen Bardsley’s mistake allowed Janice Cayman to put the visitors in front.

But Jill Scott rescued a point for her side in the 84th minute, prodding home an Alex Scott cross from close range.

England 1-1 Belgium

UEFA Women's Euro 2017
Group 7 qualifier
Friday 8 April
New York Stadium, Rotherham United FC

It wasn’t England’s most fluid performance under Sampson, who has guided the team to an all-time high of fourth in the FIFA rankings, but he believes they will continue to improve.

He said: “We were the dominant team for the majority of the game.

“I thought we more than deserved the equaliser. It was just a shame that we couldn’t go on and find the winner in the end.

“On another night we could have scored five or six but we just didn't execute our final ball.

“But credit to Belgium. They were very resolute, very organised. The longer the game goes on, the more they grew in confidence and started to believe they could get a result. They made it very difficult for us to create chances.

“We’re not happy with a draw. We wanted to win and were confident we could put on a performance to get us a result. Some aspects of our game weren’t up to the standards we wanted and ultimately it cost us.

“Our objective is to get to the European Championship and win it. To do that, we’re going to have to beat France or Germany. We’re still on the right track. We know what we’re good at, we’ve just got to be better at what we’re good at.”

England

Jill Scott wheels away after scoring a late leveller

The head coach backed Bardsley, England’s long-time No1, following her uncharacteristic error and praised the belief his side showed to get back into the game after conceding such a freak goal.

He said: “We’ve got to look at the character of the team.

“To concede a goal like we did was a real one-off for us. [Bardsley] was outstanding for us over the course of the [World Cup]. She was the player of the match against Norway and in the bronze medal match. She made some great saves away in Germany recently and was outstanding in the SheBelieves Cup.

“When your goalkeeper makes a mistake it’s a bit of a shock to the system.

“But in the second half we started to find the right pass and move the ball better in the final third, which was difficult against a very compact Belgium team. And the goal came from a very good England move.

“Credit to the guys who came off the bench. It shows the strength in depth and the character we’ve got. They came on, had an impact and changed the game, particularly [Karen] Carney who was outstanding.”

The point moved England up to second in Group 7, a point behind Belgium but with a game in hand.

Their next match is against Bosnia & Herzegovina in Zenica on Tuesday.

By Glenn Lavery