By Stuart Mawhinney in Zamora. Thursday, 02 October 2008.
UEFA 2009 European Women's Championship Qualifier
Boquette 9, Bermudez 42
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Carney 55, K Smith 77
7.30pm, Thursday 2 October 2008
Ruta de la Plata, Zamora, Spain
England Women's team made their travelling band of supporters sweat in Spain tonight before earning a 2-2 draw to secure their place in the UEFA 2009 European Championship Finals, topping Group One.
Hope Powell's side maintained their unbeaten run in qualifying, but were made to work hard in Zamora by a Spanish side who were themselves looking to win the group.
And it was the home side who took the lead after just nine minutes as England were punished for early hesitancy. Veronica Boquette scored the goal, but it owed much to the fine work of Laura Del Rio whose looping cross to the back post made it a simple task to score the opener.
Little more than three minutes later and the scores were almost level as Fara Williams struck the post with a terrific free-kick. Rachel Yankey was felled as she drove at the heart of the home defence, and when the ball left Williams' boot it seemed destined for the top corner only to crash back off the post with a dull thud.
Williams went close again as England began to impose themselves on the game, this time from open play as Eniola Aluko and Kelly Smith combined well on the right flank. Smith found Carney and the Arsenal forward played an inviting pass for Williams who struck the ball firmly, but saw Tirapu in the Spanish goal claim it comfortably.
Rachel Brown saved her Everton team-mate with a crucial stop after Lindsay Johnson had miscued her header and let the ball run through to Adriana Martin. Martin went clean through on goal and looked certain to double the hosts' lead, only for Brown to deny the Spanish forward.
Karen Carney should have done better on the half-hour mark as she stole in at the far post only to head Rachel Yankey's deep cross high over the bar with the goal gaping. It was another chance gone, but another example of the growing pressure on the home side.
That was further emphasised as Jill Scott scuffed a brilliant opening as Tirapu flapped at another fine Yankey cross. With an open goal this time for England, Scott could only find the grateful arms of the Spanish 'keeper.
Despite starting to dominate the play and create chance after chance, England slipped further behind four minutes before the interval as Sonia Bermudez struck a cruel blow with her left foot. Referee Jenny Palmqvist adjudged Jill Scott to have passed the ball back to Rachel Brown, and from the indirect free-kick inside the penalty area Bermudez hit the top corner with a deflected strike.
After trailing on Sunday to Czech Republic at the interval England knew what was required of them in the second half, but it would be an uphill battle for the visitors in their final group match. It was the same switch to that against Czech Republic, with Emily Westwood replacing the number nine, this time Eniola Aluko, and Kelly Smith leading the line.
Ten minutes into the half and England were back where they needed to be; within a goal of Spain and on track to qualify. Karen Carney scored and substitute Westwood provided a neat touch for the Arsenal forward to drill into the bottom corner.
It was no more than England deserved for all their attacking intention and with 13 minutes remaining England were all square. This time Kelly Smith got the goal but Karen Carney was right at the heart of it once again.
Driving at the full-back before guiding a delightful reverse pass to Smith, Carney was a major reason for England being able to get back into the game and reach their third successive Finals tournament.
1 Ainhoa Tirapu, 3 Sonia Vesga, 4 Melisa Nicolau, 7 Adriana Martin, 8 Laura Del Rio, 9 Veronica Boquete, 10 Vanesa Gimbert (c), 12 Silvia Meseguer (16 Ma Jose Perez 87), 14 Sonia Bermudez (11 Sandra Vilanova 71), 15 Marta Torrejon, 18 Erika Vazquez (17 Ana Romero 58)Substitutes
13 Ma Jose Pons, 2 Alexandra Lopez, 5 Ruth Garcia, 6 Ma Paz VilasEngland
1 Rachel Brown, 2 Alex Scott, 3 Casey Stoney, 4 Jill Scott, 5 Lindsay Johnson, 6 Anita Asante, 7 Karen Carney, 8 Fara Williams, 9 Eniola Aluko (16 Emily Westwood 46), 10 Kelly Smith (c), 11 Rachel Yankey (15 Sue Smith 82)Substitutes
12 Lianne Sanderson, 13 Siobhan Chamberlain, 14 Rachel Unitt, 17 Laura Bassett, 18 Faye White Referee
Jenny Palmqvist (Sweden)Assistant Referees
Annica Johansson, Anna Nystrom (Sweden)