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England defeat Ireland 2-0
UEFA Women's European Championship
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Williams 18, White 84
Qualifying Round, Group One
7.30pm, Thursday 6 March 2008
Mourneview Park, Lurgan
Next home fixture details - click here
On a blustery evening in Lurgan Hope Powell's England made hard work of their first away qualifier, but showed grit and determination to earn a crucial three points that keeps their 100% record intact.
The opening goal of the game came from Everton's Fara Williams who poked home from close range inside the first 20 minutes, but despite a succession of chances early on Northern Ireland held out until late on when Faye White wrapped up the game with another effort inside the six yard box.
Hope Powell led her team to Lurgan on a night that saw three players reach milestones as Faye White won her 60th cap, Kelly Smith her 70th and Rachel Yankey reached 80 caps for her country.
After just six minutes Kelly Smith hit the post under great pressure from the Northern Irish defence, having received the ball from Asante when it seemed the Arsenal midfielder could have gone for goal herself. Jill Scott had played the ball through to Asante who rounded the keeper, but with a tight angle she opted to square the ball rather than shoot.
Moments later and Smith missed an opportunity to mark her 70th cap with an early goal, as she saw her penalty and the subsequent rebound both saved comfortably by Emma Higgins. Smith had taken the ball past Una Harkin in the area and was tripped by a trailing leg, but despite having two bites at the cherry she was unable to open the scoring.
It looked liked fate was not with the England number nine as she then saw a close-range header tipped over the bar by Higgins. Fara Williams found space on the right flank and whipped a devilish cross across the face of goal and Smith met it, but saw Higgins deny her once more.
Fara Williams finally got England on the scoresheet after 18 minutes when she stabbed home from the six yard line. Karen Carney crossed the ball deep to Rachel Yankey whose shot was deflected to Smith, and when her effort was blocked it was a simple task for Williams to tap the ball into an empty net.
In the final minute England created another fine break that they once again failed to capitalise on, this time it was Yankey who took more time than she had in front of goal. Smith and Williams combined well to release Jill Scott wide on the left, the Everton midfielder then cut the ball across the goal to Yankey who took far too long before attempting to shoot.
The second-half began in much the same fashion as the first with Higgins again denying Smith with a firm two-handed save. Smith picked up a loose ball on the edge of the area and struck with her left foot, only to see the increasingly familiar sight of Higgins keeping the ball out.
Faye White and Alex Scott both went close from corners as England pressed their dominance in the air, but Higgins and a capable Northern Ireland defensive pair of Ashley Hutton and Julie Nelson defended bravely to keep the Three Lions at bay.
One a sour note for England came in the form of a yellow card for Kelly Smith which means that the Arsenal forward will be suspended for the match with Czech Republic in two weeks time.
Faye White made amends for her earlier miss with just six minutes remaining as she drove the ball into the roof of the net after a goalmouth scramble. The England skipper made the game safe and secured another crucial three points that took the Three Lions five clear at the top of Group One.
Northern Ireland: 1 Emma Higgins, 2 Aine McGovern, 3 Kelly Baillie (c), 4 Ashley Hutton, 5 Julie Nelson, 6 Una Harkin, 7 Helen McKenna, 8 Kimberley Turner, 9 Sarah McFadden (16 Amy McCann 83), 10 Sara Booth (13 Rebecca Corish 46), 11 Demi Vance
Subs Not Used: 12 Angela Platt, 14 Laura Gillespie, 15 Nadene Caldwell, 17 Clare Carson, 18 Lynsey Patterson
England: 1 Siobhan Chamberlain, 2 Alex Scott (12 Lindsay Johnson 71), 3 Casey Stoney, 4 Anita Asante, 5 Faye White, 6 Mary Philip, 7 Karen Carney, 8 Jill Scott, 9 Kelly Smith, 10 Fara Williams, 11 Rachel Yankey
Subs Not Used: 13 Carly Telford, 14 Lianne Sanderson, 15 Rachel Unitt, 16 Jody Handley, 17 Laura Bassett, 18 Emily Westwood
Referee: S. Spinelli