Kelly Smith 52, Una Harkin (OG) 66, Katie Chapman 72, Lianne Sanderson 76
| || |
UEFA European Championship 2009 Qualifier
1pm, Sunday 13 May 2007
Priestfield Stadium, Gillingham FC
On a wet and windy afternoon at the Priestfield Stadium, England began their UEFA 2009 European Championship qualifying campaign with 4-0 victory in front of a crowd of 3,944.
The two sides are separated by 66 places in the FIFA world rankings - England are 12th and Northern Ireland 78th - but the visitors went into the half-time break level, despite England getting into their stride after half an hour.
Fara Williams had England's first shot on target with a 30 yard free-kick after only two minutes and The Three Lions were creating plenty of space out wide without threatening the Northern Irish goal.
Kelly Smith warmed the fingers of Emma Higgins with a long drive after 24 minutes, and only a fine save at full stretch three minutes later prevented England from taking the lead.
After patient build-up play down the right, Katie Chapman whipped over a deep cross. Fara Williams got in front of her marker to flick a powerful header down towards the bottom left hand corner but Higgins saved, with Alex Scott firing the rebound into the side netting.
The chance seemed to galvanise the home side but despite bossing possession, the final ball was at times lacking accuracy.
On the half hour Kelly Smith went into the referee's notebook following a mis-timed challenge on Irish captain Stacey Hall as the pace of the game continued to warm-up.
Eleven minutes before half-time Lianne Sanderson should have opened the scoring. Katie Chapman's long range strike was deflected up into the air. Alex Scott won the first header and when the ball fell to Sanderson, the Arsenal striker headed over from just three yards.
Then, with just two minutes to the interval, Sanderson's shot from 8 yards was cleared off the line by Kellie Leyland after a great run and pull-back by Kelly Smith.
After a first half in which England were always on top but not at their slickest, Karen Carney came on at the break for Steph Houghton, with Alex Scott reverting back to right back.
On 48 minutes the Northern Ireland goal survived attempts by Rachel Unitt and Lianne Sanderson before the opening goal finally came four minutes later.
Carney hung up a teasing cross from the right flank and after Sue Smith headed the ball back into the box, Sanderson and finally Kelly Smith bundled the ball over the line.
England doubled their lead on 66 minutes when, after a lovely ball inside the Irish right-back by Kelly Smith, Lianne Sanderson's cut-back was deflected into her own goal by Una Harkin.
Six minutes later as the visitors began to tire in the rain, Katie Chapman, playing just down the M2 from her Sidcup home slotted in a third from the edge of the box.
After Sue Smith was felled, the ball came to Chapman running onto the ball from midfield, and her strike was even more of a collectors item, coming from her left foot, only her third international goal on her 57th appearance.
That goal saw Faye White make her long awaited return from injury, and sensing their opponents on the ropes, Lianne Sanderson cooly rounded Higgins on 76 minutes after being played in by player of the match Fara Williams to make it four, Sanderson's first senior England goal.
England continued to press for a fifth, Williams coming closest in the last minute.
Despite a slow start, it was England who open their European qualifying campaign with three points.
With a friendly on Thursday night against Iceland, it will be the last international before the team opens its World Cup campaign on 11 September.Tickets are still available for the match at Southend United's Roots Hall ground at just £5 for Adults and £2.50 for concessions. England
Rachel Brown, Steph Houghton (Karen Carney, 46mins), Rachel Unitt, Katie Chapman, Anita Asante, Mary Phillip, Alex Scott, Fara Williams, Lianne Sanderson (Amanda Barr, 77mins), Kelly Smith (c) (Faye White, 73mins) Sue Smith
Subs not used: Jo Potter, Carly Telford (GK), Vicky Exley, Lindsay JohnsonNorthern Ireland
Emma Higgins, Kellie Leyland, Kelly Bailie, Una Harkin, Julie Nelson, Ashley Hutton, Kimberley Turner, Stacey Hall (c) (Clare Carson, 79mins), Sarah McFadden, Helen McKenna (Laura Gillespie, 55mins) Rebecca Corish
Subs not used: Angela Platt, Aine McGovern, Sara Booth, Danielle McDowell, Lynsey Patterson