Mark Sampson’s 50th match in charge of England ended in a 1-1 draw with Italy at Vale Park.
Jodie Taylor lobbed home the opening goal on 70 minutes after being found by Jordan Nobbs but Valentina Cernoia nabbed an unlikely draw for the visitors soon after.
The Lionesses dominated the ball for the majority of the game and carved out a number of opportunities but were ultimately made to pay for their profligacy in front of goal.
- A Women's International
- Friday 7 April 2017
- Vale Park, Port Vale FC
Before the match, Sampson asked his players to produce “foot-to-the-floor” football, and they certainly hit the ground running in Stoke-on-Trent.
Demi Stokes had a strike at goal inside 30 seconds, Nobbs saw a long-range effort deflected over the top and Karen Carney zipped a left-footer just wide from 20 yards as England took control early on.
They were still in control when there was a lengthy delay to proceedings midway through the first half following a horrible injury to Alice Parisi, after a clash with Millie Bright, and the Italy No10 had to be replaced by Aurora Galli.
Azzurre boss Antonio Cabrini, who helped Italy win the 1982 World Cup as a player, set his side up in a conservative 4-1-4-1 formation in an attempt to frustrate the hosts. But still England found ways through.
Nobbs and Taylor, twice, called Katja Schroffenegger into action as the half-time interval loomed – unfortunately for England, the Italy goalkeeper was equal to them.
Sampson’s charges were soon into the swing of things again in the second half. After half-hearted appeals for a penalty were dismissed, Toni Duggan tried her luck from 30 yards but the shot was just too high.
Liverpool left-back Alex Greenwood replaced Stokes on 69 minutes for her first international appearance since last June, following a long injury lay-off. And she wasn’t on the field more than 60 seconds before England broke the deadlock.
Nobbs played a high ball through to her Arsenal club mate Taylor, who was coolness personified as she neatly lifted a shot over Schroffenegger from the edge of the area to put her side ahead. It was a carbon copy of her winner against Netherlands last November.
But the lead lasted only three minutes as Cernoia pounced on a weak clearance from Greenwood to drill home the equaliser from 18 yards.
England were still on top and they had chances to win it late on as substitute Fara Williams, on for Jade Moore, smashed a shot goalwards which Schroffenegger parried but Duggan dragged the rebound wide.
An even better chance fell to Greenwood with just two minutes left when she met Carney’s deep cross – but she could only head wide of the far post.
It was a frustrating result for England but they can take a lot of heart from a dominant display against another Euro finalist.
England’s final home match before the Euros is against Austria in Milton Keynes on Monday night.
Tickets are priced £7.50 for adults and £3.50 for children. A family ticket (two adults and two children) is available at £15.
Tickets can be bought via www.TheFA.com/Tickets.
Tickets are also available by calling 0333 200 5343 and in person at the club’s box office.
England’s open their Euro 2017 campaign against Scotland in Utrecht on 19 July, before facing Spain in Breda on 23 July and Portugal in Tilburg on 27 July.
England (4-4-2): 1 Siobhan Chamberlain (Liverpool); 2 Lucy Bronze (Manchester City), 5 Steph Houghton (capt; Manchester City), 6 Millie Bright (Chelsea), 3 Demi Stokes (Manchester City); 7 Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal), 8 Jade Moore (Notts County), 4 Jill Scott (Manchester City), 11 Karen Carney (Chelsea); 9 Jodie Taylor (Arsenal), 10 Toni Duggan (Manchester City).
Substitutes: 12 Alex Greenwood (Liverpool) for Stokes 69, 18 Fara Williams (Arsenal) for Moore 69, 23 Nikita Parris (Manchester City) for Duggan 90.
Substitutes not used: 13 Carly Telford (Notts County), 14 Casey Stoney (Liverpool), 15 Laura Bassett (Notts County), 16 Hannah Blundell (Chelsea), 17 Jessica Carter (Birmingham City), 19 Isobel Christiansen (Manchester City), 21 Sophie Baggaley (Birmingham City), 22 Melissa Lawley (Manchester City).
Goal: Taylor 70
Head coach: Mark Sampson
Italy: 1 Katja Schroffenegger, 2 Elisa Bartoli, 3 Sara Gama (capt), 4 Daniela Stracchi, 5 Elena Linari, 6 Cecilia Salvai, 7 Alia Guagni, 9 Ilaria Mauro, 10 Alice Parisi, 11 Barbara Bonansea, 23 Cristiana Girelli.
Substitutes: 19 Aurora Galli for Parisi 37, 20 Valentina Cernoia for Girelli 46, 8 Melania Gabbiadini for Guagni 56, 21 Tatiana Bonetti for Bonansea 60, 18 Daniela Sabatino for Mauro 69, 14 Lisa Boattin for Bartoli 85.
Substitutes not used: 12 Alessia Gritti, 13 Manuela Giugliano, 15 Federica Di Criscio, 16 Valentina Giacinti, 17 Giorgia Spinelli, 22 Francesca Durante.
Goal: Cernoia 73
Head coach: Antonio Cabrini
Referee: Morag Pirie (SCO)