Fran Kirby scored for the second time in four days but England Women were held to a 1-1 draw by Australia at a charged Craven Cottage.
The 25-year-old produced a neat turn and finish to fire Phil Neville’s side ahead from close range on 21 minutes.
The Matildas rallied in the second half and were rewarded through Clare Polkinghorne’s headed equaliser with nine minutes remaining.
- A Women's International
- Tuesday 9 October
- at Craven Cottage
This was England’s first match in the capital since the 3-0 defeat by Germany at Wembley in November 2014.
And if this level of entertainment is the outcome of playing so close to the Thames, it won’t be long before London’s calling again.
The opening quarter was played at breakneck speed with both sides demonstrating exactly why they are among the world’s elite, each playing a brand of football that whipped the crowd into a frenzy.
The volume inside Craven Cottage was cranked up a notch or two towards the end as well thanks to a frantic finale that brought chances for substitutes Fara Williams and Nikita Parris.
Fran on fire
It’s been quite a week for Kirby.
The Chelsea forward scored the winner against Brazil on Saturday, was nominated for the inaugural Women's Ballon d'Or award on Monday and then bagged her 12th England goal on Tuesday to further underline her status as one of the game’s rising stars.
And Kirby came close to doubling her tally on the hour mark but was denied on the line by Polkinghorne.
Mead means business
After a prolific career in the England youth teams, Mead scored her first two senior goals in the 6-0 win in Kazakhstan last month, and she put in another solid performance.
Starting on the right of a front three, the Arsenal forward was in the thick of an action-packed first half.
She had four attempts early on, the third an impudent flick at the near post which Arnold did brilliantly to foil, before keeping her composure to set up Kirby for the opening goal.
Mead then had an effort hooked off the line before obvious penalty claims upon being brought down inside the box were dismissed by referee Florence Guillemin.
Late Aussie reprieve
In his programme notes, Neville predicted Australia would be one of the dark horses at the World Cup.
They have a shrewd gaffer in Alen Stajcic, who has a number of talented performers to carry out his instructions on the pitch, including the goal hungry Lisa de Vanna and 15-year-old rookie Mary Fowler.
The Matildas were outplayed in the first half but bounced back after the break and got their leveller from a corner late on.
Solid start to World Cup prep
After watching England ease through qualifying unbeaten, Neville wanted to test his side at the earliest opportunity and lined up back-to-back matches against teams in the world’s top 10. He wanted to mirror the calibre of opposition they might have to meet in the knockout stages of France 2019.
England dominated for large spells against Brazil on Saturday and against Australia showed plenty of examples that they were coming to terms with their head coach’s desire for Total Football.
And they might have won the game had Guillemin awarded a spot-kick to either Mead or Parris, who was felled by Alexandra Chidiac in the dying embers.
Next up for the Lionesses is another home match, this time against Sweden in Rotherham on Sunday 11 November.
‘Early bird’ tickets are available up to and including Sunday 14 October, priced £7.50 for adults and £1 for children. The price of an adult ticket goes up to £10 from Monday 15 October, with children’s tickets remaining at £1.
England (4-2-3-1): 13 Mary Earps (Wolfsburg); 2 Lucy Bronze (Lyon), 5 Steph Houghton (capt; Manchester City), 15 Abbie McManus (Manchester City), 3 Alex Greenwood (Manchester United); 4 Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal), 19 Keira Walsh (Manchester City); 22 Beth Mead (Arsenal), 20 Lucy Staniforth (Birmingham City), 11 Toni Duggan (Barcelona); 10 Fran Kirby (Chelsea).
Substitutes: 7 Nikita Parris (Manchester City) for Mead 63, 9 Rachel Daly (Houston Dash) for Staniforth 63, 14 Fara Williams (Reading) for Kirby 76, 16 Leah Williamson (Arsenal) for McManus 86.
Substitutes not used: 1 Carly Telford (Chelsea), 6 Millie Bright (Chelsea), 8 Isobel Christiansen (Lyon), 12 Hannah Blundell (Chelsea), 18 Gabrielle George (Everton), 21 Siobhan Chamberlain (Manchester United).
Goal: Kirby 21
Bookings: Mead 18
Head coach: Phil Neville
Australia: 18 Mackenzie Arnold, 4 Claire Polkinghorne, 6 Chloe Logarzo, 7 Stephanie Catley, 8 Elise Kellond-Knight (capt), 9 Caitlin Foord, 11 Lisa de Vanna, 13 Tameka Butt, 2 Amy Sayer, 21 Ellie Carpenter, 20 Princess Ibinsi-Isei.
Substitutes: 15 Emily Gielnik for Sayer 55, 22 Larissa Crummer for Ibini-Isei 66, 5 Mary Fowler for de Vanna 66, 23 Alexandra Chidiac for Logarzo 82.
Substitutes not used: 12 Jada Mathyssen-Whyman, 3 Aivi Luik.
Goal: Polkinghorne 84
Booking: Foord 90
Head coach: Alen Stajcic
Referee: Florence Guillemin