England may have been denied a late winner but Mark Sampson’s side can take great pride in the way they restricted one of the world’s best teams to only a handful of openings during the 0-0 draw with France.
The Lionesses were excellent defensively at Doncaster Rovers’ Keepmoat Stadium on Friday night as France – who are ranked third in the world – struggled to create much of note throughout the 90 minutes.
And England thought they had snatched a hard-fought winner in the first minute of added time.
Substitute Toni Duggan controlled the expertly in the box and drilled into the bottom corner, only for the referee to have adjudged the ball to have gone out of play before fellow sub Nikita Parris got her cross in.
England 0-0 France
A Women's International
Friday 21 October 2016
by Frank Smith
So the Lionesses’ record of not beating France in 42 years remains but the hosts proved they can more than hold their own with the world’s best ahead of next summer’s European Championship finals.
England made three changes to the side that beat Belgium 2-0 a month ago, as Notts County’s Jade Moore, Houston Dash’s Rachel Daly and Chelsea’s Gemma Davison came in for Gilly Flaherty, Danielle Carter and Parris.
On seven minutes it looked as though Claire Lavogez would get a shot away but Davison, known more for her attacking prowess, showed she is handy defensively as well with a superb recovery tackle.
Elise Bussaglia tried her luck from distance soon after as France controlled possession early on but the shot was wayward and another great recovery tackle, this time from the excellent Lucy Bronze, denied an opening shortly before the interval.
England themselves found it hard to break down the opposition in the first half and when Davison thought she was in, the midfielder was denied by the offside flag and the sliding tackle of goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi.
The home team were improved as an attacking force in the second period and when Bouhaddi failed to gather a cross and the ball wasn’t fully cleared, Moore tried to life the ball over the goalkeeper from 30 yards only to see it clear the crossbar.
There was a worrying moment for England when Gaetane Thiney was through one-one-one five minutes after the restart but even without the offside flag being raised, Karen Bardsley made an excellent save when rushing out.
Bouhaddi at the other end had to endure a few hair-raising moments as England applied the pressure, while France’s only efforts on goal from Sandie Toletti and Eugenie Le Sommer – in quick succession – were routine stops for Bardsley.
And just three minutes after coming on as a late replacement, it looked as though Duggan would snatch England the victory when the Manchester City striker controlled the ball with the top of her chest and fired low past Bouhaddi, only for the referee to blow her whistle, and the sides had to settle for a draw.
Mark Sampson’s side will now take on Spain in Guadalajara on Tuesday before facing Euro 2017 hosts Netherlands in Tilburg on Tuesday 29 November – by which point they will both know their groups for next summer’s Euros.
England (3-5-2): 1 Karen Bardsley (Manchester City); 2 Lucy Bronze (Manchester City), 5 Steph Houghton (capt; Manchester City), 6 Jo Potter (Notts County); 11 Gemma Davison (Chelsea), 7 Jill Scott (Manchester City), 4 Jade Moore (Notts County), 8 Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal), 3 Demi Stokes (Manchester City); 10 Karen Carney (Chelsea), 9 Rachel Daly (Houston Dash).
Substitutes: 20 Nikita Parris (Manchester City) for Daly 58, 12 Alex Scott (Arsenal) for Davison 71, 22 Toni Duggan (Manchester City) for Carney 88.
Substitutes not used: 13 Siobhan Chamberlain (Liverpool), 14 Laura Bassett (Notts County), 15 Casey Stoney (Arsenal), 17 Isobel Christiansen (Manchester City), 18 Fara Williams (Arsenal), 19 Millie Bright (Chelsea), 21 Mary Earps (Reading), 23 Danielle Carter (Arsenal).
Head coach: Mark Sampson
France: 16 Sarah Bouhaddi, 3 Wendie Renard, 4 Laura Georges, 8 Jessica Houara, 9 Eugenie Le Sommer, 11 Claire Lavogez, 13 Kadidiatou Diani, 15 Elise Bussaglia, 17 Gaetane Thiney, 22 Amet Majri, 23 Kheira Hamraoui.
Substitutes: 7 Sandie Toletti for Bussaglia 69, 12 Clarisse Le Bihan for Lavogez 72, 6 Delphine Cascarino for Diani 81, 18 Camille Catala for Le Sommer 90
Substitutes not used: 1 Laetitia Philippe, 21 Meline Gerard, 2 Eve Perisset, 5 Aissatou, Tounkara, 14 Sakina Karchaoui, 18 Camille Catala, 19 Laura Agard, 20 Annaig Butel.
Bookings: Bussaglia, Lavogez
Head coach: Philippe Bergeroo