England draw 1-1 in their first testing game of the Arnold Clark Cup
In their first match in the inaugural year of the Arnold Clark Cup the Lionesses took on Olympic gold medallists Canada.
England boss Sarina Wiegman lined up an experimental starting eleven, opting for youngster Alessia Russo to lead the line over England’s all time top scorer Ellen White. Russo has enjoyed a stellar season with Manchester United, netting 5 goals and earning 2 assists in the Women’s Super League so far. In comparison, White has scored 2 goals and produced 3 assists in what has been a reserved season for the Manchester City striker.
Mary Earps maintained her spot in goal despite the return of Ellie Roebuck who has been out of action with an injury for the majority of the season. Arsenal’s Leah Williamson resumed captain duties in the absence of Steph Houghton. Williamson also took up a different role to the one played at club level, operating in the double pivot alongside Keira Walsh as opposed to her usual centre-half role.
Chelsea’s Jessie Fleming wore the armband for Canada as usual skipper Christine Sinclair takes some time away from the pitch after the passing of a family member. PSG’s Ashley Lawrence played in her usual left back role as Reading’s Deanne Rose and Real Madrid’s Jordan Huitema fronted the 4-4-2 diamond.
England started the first half as they ended it – with control. The Lionesses kicked off brightly opening up space in behind their fullbacks and causing a lot of problems down the left flank. It was the home side who opened the scoring after 22 minutes as Millie Bright hit a wonder volley following an England corner. Fran Kirby played a short corner to Alex Greenwood who promptly sent in a cross. Canada goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan cleared the ball as far as Bright who made no mistake in firing her rocket into the back of the net.
The next chance came ten minutes later when Lauren Hemp, who had been as elusive as ever, took a driven run down the left towards the touchline before cutting the ball back to Russo. Russo’s shot was blocked by Kadiesha Buchanan but fell to Ella Toone whose effort was also blocked. England rounded off the half with one final chance that was built up in possession around the area. Eventually the ball made its way to Russo near the six-yard box who passed back to an approaching Rachel Daly. Daly fed in Williamson who surged forward, beating out Vanessa Gilles, before releasing the ball back to Hemp who did not connect well enough and sent it wide.
Although England were certainly in the driving seat as the half time whistle blew, they would come to rue the clear-cut chances they missed as Bev Priestman tweaked her Canada side for the second forty-five.
Canada equalised in the 54th minute with a stunning left footed strike from Janine Beckie. Lawrence intercepted a pass from Daly and ran the ball a fair length of the pitch. Kirby managed to divert Lawrence’s subsequent pass that was picked up by Huitema who cleverly flicked it on to Beckie. Beckie took a couple of touches and nudged the ball into a more central position before unleashing her quality strike, a strike which Mary Earps had no chance of stopping.
It appeared there was a distinct shift in momentum in the second half with Canada reaping the successes England had found in the first. The Lionesses were forced narrower and so were having difficulty not only in stretching the field to create attacking play, but in maintaining any sort of purposeful possession.
Canada began pressing from the front, closing down lanes to halt England’s attempts to play out from the back, exactly as England had done to them in the first half. Priestman’s substitutions were also tactically privy and allowed the visitors to utilise their greatest threats. The addition of Quinn in the midfield meant that Fleming could drift into her preferred central area and spray through balls that caught England short on several occasions. Had it not been for resolute defending from Millie Bright, Fleming’s passes could have seen Canada clinch the win.
Yet England were not without their chances in the second half. Sarina Wiegman made a quadruple change with just under half an hour to go in an attempt to reinject some decorum. Lucy Bronze made immediate impact in reasserting some dominance along the right wing going toe-to-toe with Lawrence and often coming out on top to play in Nikita Parris.
Similarly, the re-shift in formation after the introduction of Parris and Beth Mead saw the now single pivoted Walsh with a more playable chess board open up before her. This meant she had a greater number of options to pick from when launching her trademark visionary passes.
It was one of these passes that led to a penalty shout from England late in the game when Parris was tussled down receiving Walsh’s ball. The official was in a good position to see the incident and no penalty was given. A one-all draw in a game of two halves was a fair result for the Lionesses who will no doubt be glad to finally have been challenged.
England: Earps (GK), Daly (64’), Stokes, Walsh, Greenwood (64’), Bright (22’), Kirby, Williamson (C) (64’), Toone (45’), Hemp (64’), Russo (75’)
Substitutes: White (75’), Bronze (64’), Hampton (GK), Stanway (45’), Carter (64’), Mead (64’), Parris (64’), Nobbs, Charles, Scott, Roebuck (GK), Zelem
Goals: Bright 22’
Canada: Sheridan (GK), Buchanan, Fleming (C), Rose (79’), Grosso (58’), Riviere (65’), Huitema (58’), Lawrence, Scott, Beckie, Gilles
Substitutes: Chapman, Zadorsky, Quinn (58’), Carle, Prince (58’), Boychuk, D’angelo, Alidou, Lacasse (65’), Yekka, Pickett (79’)
Goals: Beckie 54’