A "special" strike from Katie Chapman put England in pole position to qualify for next years World Cup in Germany after a 1-0 victory over Spain at The Den. Having eased past Austria at Loftus Road, England faced their biggest challenge in South East London against a Spanish side that were the only other team in the group with an unblemished record.
It was a first half goal from the Chicago Red Stars midfielder that put England level on points with their opponents with a game in hand.
England had taken their time getting into the game before Chapman collected a pull-back from Jess Clarke to fire past Spain goalkeeper Ainhoa Tirapu from 12 yards out.
The Bermondsey-born 27-year-old started her career with Millwall Lionesses and said: “It’s not often I do score so it’s nice. To score a goal like that, especially being at Millwall, for me is very special.
“We knew this was going to be a really tough game, they came at us in the second half and made it hard for us but we dealt with the pressure, were resilient and got the result,” she added.
Hope Powell’s side started their World Cup qualifying double-header with an emphatic 3-0 win in West London thanks to goals from Eniola Aluko, Lianne Sanderson and debutant Ellen White.
Although England seem odds-on favourites to top Group Five, the former Arsenal midfielder sees no reason for her side to become complacent.
She said: “You are never certain, every game in football is different, and we know we are not that good that we can go out and say ‘yeah we are going to win this game.’
“We just have to prepare ourselves for the next one, which is Malta, and be ready for that. We are not jumping the gun, we will take each game as it comes and go from there,” she added.
Chapman joined England team mate Karen Carney in Chicago in February and admitted that she has not had time to settle into her new life in America yet.
She said: “We went straight to Florida for pre-season, had a day in Chicago then back to England so it is a bit up in the air at the moment but I am looking forward to getting back and settling in.”
The Red Stars travel to New Jersey to take on Sky Blue FC in their opening Pro Soccer League game next week and Chapman is excited about her first season at her new club.
“It will be a new challenge for me, with Arsenal I have managed to win pretty much everything and it is nice to have something fresh to aim for and see how I like it,” she said.
“I was a tough decision because I have children and we have all had to move but my husband is very supportive and we have gone over as a family so hopefully it will turn out well for us.”
England travel to Malta in May for their next game before the return leg in Spain a month later. Their only remaining home fixture comes on 29 July against Turkey before the campaign finishes in Austria on 21 August.
Story by David Brenchley, photo by Steven Paston, Action Images
photos Janos Schmidt