On the 10th Anniversary of the Women’s Super League the Lionesses lined up to play their final friendly before the selection for the upcoming Olympic games.
After their 3-1 defeat to France, England had to prove themselves, not only for their places in Team GB, but to their supporters who have been patiently waiting for, and intently willing, their team to regain their confidence after a poor run of form.
The Canadian side they were to face was one that would be challenging, not only due to the quality their players possess, but also as former England assistant coach Bev Priestman was at the helm.
Captain for the night, Millie Bright, led the Lionesses out of the tunnel ahead of the game in which a convincing performance was sought.
It was a mere 180 seconds after the opening whistle blew when England found themselves chasing the game. Canada’s Janine Beckie made a driving run through the middle before releasing a pass that was collected by England left back, Demi Stokes. Stokes took a heavy touch towards goalkeeper Carly Telford, as Canadian forward Eveylne Viens muscled through on the mis-controlled ball. Viens made no mistake in taking advantage of the error and put the visitors in front early on.
England, needing an equaliser to rid the effect of beginning a game on the back foot, begin to press as Georgia Stanway took the first of her three long range strikes. A free kick on the right side of the area then gave Jordan Nobbs the opportunity to float in a decent cross, and she did just that. Yet no one is able to connect with the delivery and Canada cleared the ball away from Bethany England’s threat.
By the twenty-five-minute mark England had begun to buildsome more promising packages of play. Passes in triangles through the middle between Fran Kirby, Lauren Hemp and Nobbs allowed a time of possession, and Georgia Stanway, playing in an unfamiliar holding midfield role, was able to begin to springboard play out to either side. Yet, as was to occur until the very end, Canada’s resolute defensive play did not give England an inch to manoeuvre anything much further than that.
Another set piece for England and Nobbs stepped up to the plate once again. This time the Arsenal midfielder fired in a tasty shot that was ultimately tipped over the crossbar by goalkeeper, Stephanie Labbe.
Canada then roused with a dangerous spell of their own as the pacey Deanne Rose managed to beat out Rachel Daly and Bright down the right-hand side to feed a ball into Chelsea’s Jessie Fleming.
In reaction, England substitute, Alex Greenwood, sent a curling ball down the line to meet a well-positioned Kirby. Although Kirby was unable to do much with the intended play, it was refreshing to see England move the ball with someimagination as little had been created so far. The half drew to a close with Canada still leading from their early goal.
The Lionesses started the second half brighter than the first. Within five minutes, and after some quick passes around the ‘D’, Nobbs had sent a high ball into the box that was met by England, however the resulting header was collected comfortably by Labbe.
The visitors then switched it up and brought a tirade ofattacking play to the hosts. Notably, Leah Williamson put in a timely challenge to deny Canada breaking through, yet a number of aerial balls remained undealt with by the English defence.
England, then with an attacking play of their own, called for a penalty after Nobbs toppled over in the area. Penalty denied and the Lionesses, as in their previous match, were caught out in transition. Nichelle Prince was able to drive the ball down the field, eventually she was closed down by Williamson andKaren Bardsely collected the loose ball.
Nobbs, sensing a Canadian dominance, then took the opportunity to stretch their line. After picking up the ball in her own half, Nobbs carried it forward before lining up her pass into the area. Ella Toone was unable to pick the ball up as projected and the chance fell away.
The next real chance of the game came with just ten minutes to go. Hemp pinched the ball from the midfield and ran it through the middle toward goal. Hemp was just about able to strike the ball before Vanessa Gilles blocked the shot.
Just a couple of minutes later Hemp was on the receiving end of a nasty head collision. The winger remained down whilst being checked over by medical staff as the Lionesses took this time to take on some needed tactical advice from the touchlines.
However, as play resumed another blunder at the back meant Canada doubled their lead. A pass back to Bardsley from Bright was not cleared quick enough by the keeper and Princesoftly tapped the ball across the line from under Bardsley’s feet.
Full time, England 0 – 2 Canada.
Once again supporters were to end up disappointed with their team’s performance. Despite positive spells of possession anda working midfield with some quick and intricate passing, the Lionesses did not take the opportunities they grafted to create. Canada’s holding double pivot, made up of Desree Scott and Quinn, made it increasingly difficult for England to progress any higher than the middle third.
Lauren Hemp did have some luck along the wing. Yet once experienced defender, Ashley Lawrence, caught wind of Hemp’s tendency to take play on the outside, crosses that would usually channel in from the left became few and far between. In fact, it seemed that Alex Greenwood’s long curling ball toward Fran Kirby was about the most creative play that England could muster.
This is not to say that there were not other pleasing aspects of the game. Georgia Stanway put in an excellent shift as a defensive midfielder and remained positionally disciplined to allow partner, Jordan Nobbs, to push forward. Similarly, centre back’s, Millie Bright and Leah Williamson looked to be working as a more unified partnership in holding a firmer back line than they did in the previous fixture.
However, defensive mistakes were once again made. Aerial threats were not dispelled and mindless mistakes cost a game, that for the most part, remained a fairly even match. It is these disconcerting errors that if permitted to continue, will creep into and become the very bones of this capable team.
England: Telford (45’), Daly (64’), Bright (C), Williamson, Stokes(31’), Nobbs, Stanway, Kirby (45’), Parris (79’), England(64’), Hemp
England Substitutes: Bardsley (GK) (45’), Roebuck (GK), MacIver (GK), Bronze (64’), Turner, Charles, Wubben-Moy, Morgan, Greenwood (31’), Walsh, Scott, Toone (45’), Kelly (64’), White (79’), Mead
Canada: Labbe (GK), Chapman, Zadorsky, Gilles, Lawrence, Scott (C) (65’), Quinn (81’), Beckie, Fleming, Rose (58’), Viens (58’)
Canada Substitutes: McLeod (GK), Foster (GK), Grosso, Riviere (65’), Huitema (58’), Schmidt (81’), Carle, Prince (58’), Listro, Rose, Agnew, Chang, Lacasse, Stratigakis, Hellstrom