Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Jill Scott rises to heighten England's World Cup hopes

England completed their pre-World Cup match schedule with only their second victory in 20 meetings with Sweden, ranked five places above Hope Powell's team and not defeated by England since 1984 – when Powell herself was in midfield.

Six weeks after defeating the world's top-ranked nation, the USA, with an outstanding performance England began nervously against the Swedes and were clearly missing the injured key players Faye White, the captain and central defender, and the midfielder Fara Williams. Hesitancy in defence almost cost them dear in the early stages, most notably when the right-back Alex Scott's poor clearing header fell for the left-winger Therese Sjogran to shoot against the near post from 15 yards.

But they recovered from their jittery start to have a good spell in which the left-back Rachel Unitt had a 17th-minute shot cleared off the line by her opposing number Sara Thunebro. The Swedes regained the upper hand, however, and the home goalkeeper Karen Bardsley had to make good saves from Thunebro and the striker Linda Forsberg before half-time.

But England made a tremendous start to the second half, the Everton midfielder Jill Scott rising at the far post to head home the left-winger Rachel Yankey's corner within a minute of the restart. The substitute Eniola Aluko should have increased the lead in the 68th minute, racing clear of the defence but shooting against the legs of Hedvig Lindahl as the keeper dashed off her line.

Two minutes later, though, England's advantage was doubled when the substitute Karen Carney of Birmingham City drilled home a penalty after Alex Scott had been fouled by the central defender Charlotte Rohlin.

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