England slipped to a narrow defeat in the first of the Road to France Series, as Canada left Manchester with a 1-0 victory.
An 81st-minute goal from Canadian legend Christine Sinclair proved the difference between the teams, in what was a close encounter in front of almost 6000 fans at the Academy Stadium.
And Phil Neville’s side will find plenty of positives to take from the game, particularly in the second half when they really forced some pressure on their guests.
They just couldn’t find that crucial breakthrough against a side who will be competing with them at this summer’s World Cup, only to be caught out in the late stages, when veteran striker Sinclair was first to react in the box to score her 180th international goal after a shot from Nichelle Price crashed back off the crossbar.
But there was plenty of encouragement for the Lionesses, despite keeper Karen Bardsley being the busier of the two keepers in the early stages.
Nikita Parris, one of six Manchester City players starting the game on their home turf, came the closest to opening the scoring in the later stages of the first half.
Receiving a pass from Jodie Taylor, she worked the space to fire in a shot at goal which was destined for the bottom corner until Canada keeper Stephanie Labbe got down to turn it around the post.
After the break, England came even closer to breaking the deadlock when Nikita Parris supplied a cross from the right, which Taylor did well to lay off to Toni Duggan.
The Barcelona striker turned neatly, but nudged her low shot agonisingly wide of the post from 12 yards.
With both teams making changes in the second half, momentum was lost and it looked as though the game was heading for a draw until Sinclair’s late intervention.
England spent the last ten minutes on the front foot in search of an equaliser, with Demi Stokes’ shot into the side netting being the closest Neville’s side came.
The Lionesses will have an opportunity to get back to winning ways next week, when they host Spain in Swindon on Tuesday evening.
England: 1 Karen Bardsley (Manchester City), 17 Rachel Daly (Houston Dash), 5 Steph Houghton (capt; Manchester City), 14 Abbie McManus (Manchester City), 12 Demi Stokes (Manchester City), 2 Lucy Bronze (Lyon), 4 Keira Walsh (Manchester City), 7 Nikita Parris (Manchester City), 9 Jodie Taylor (Seattle Reign), 10 Toni Duggan (Barcelona), 11 Karen Carney (Chelsea).
Substitutes: Beth Mead (Arsenal) for Carney 64, Jill Scott (Manchester City) for Daly 73, Ellen White (Birmingham City) for Taylor 73, Georgia Stanway (Manchester City) for Duggan 84.
Substitutes not used: Millie Bright (Chelsea), Alex Greenwood (Manchester United), Leah Williamson (Arsenal), Jade Moore (Reading), Lucy Staniforth (Birmingham City), Chioma Ubogagu (Orlando Pride), Mary Earps (Wolfsburg), Ellie Roebuck (Manchester City), Carly Telford (Chelsea).
Head coach: Phil Neville