Lionesses end 2019 with welcome win

By Richard Morgan

Football journalist – @Richiereds1976

Lionesses record only a second victory in their past eight matches

Last Updated: 12/11/19 9:50pm

Leah Williamson's late strike saw England beat the Czechs
Leah Williamson’s late strike saw England beat the Czechs

Leah Williamson’s late strike handed England Women a much-needed 3-2 win over the Czech Republic in a friendly on Tuesday.

Tereza Szewieczkova had opened the scoring for the hosts on the quarter-hour mark with a well-taken goal after some lovely build-up play, however, the visitors hit back immediately via Beth England’s close-range finish.

Just minutes later England went ahead thanks to Beth Mead’s lovely curler, only for the Czechs to pull level again through Szewieczkova’s stunning 25-yard strike.

However, Phil Neville’s side claimed just a second win in their last eight games when Williamson’s deflected 86th-minute strike somehow beat Barbora Votikova in the Czech goal.

How England got back to winning ways

With just one win to their name since last summer’s World Cup, England came into their final fixture of 2019 under some pressure to deliver and after a difficult first half, they finally did for their under-siege manager.

However, it did not start well for Neville’s team, who fell behind following some neat link-up play by the home side involving captain Lucie Vonkova and Katerina Svitkova, who then released Szewieczkova on goal and the striker kept her cool to dink the ball over the advancing Carly Telford.

It took England only two minutes to level matters, though, after an excellent run to the right byline from Nikita Parris, whose deflected cross was side-footed home from close range by England.

Neville made five changes to the side that lost 2-1 to Germany on Saturday, with Carly Telford, Demi Stokes, Millie Bright, Lucy Staniforth and Bethany England all given starting spots.

And a goal-laden opening 20 minutes to the contest was complete when Lucy Staniforth was given too much freedom down the left wing to pick out Mead, although the Arsenal forward still had much to do to find the bottom right-hand corner of the net with a delicious curler.

But if Neville thought the first-half scoring was done, he was wrong as Szewieczkova brought the hosts level with a sensational long-range strike 18 minutes before half-time.

In what was a game of two halves, England dominated possession and territory after the break, but without really carving out any clear-cut openings.

That was until the visitors won a succession of late corners, the last of which dropped invitingly to the unmarked Williamson on the edge of the box and despite the Arsenal defender’s shot lacking any real power, it took a slight deflection on its way past a flat-footed Votikova.

Analysis

From Sky Spoorts News’ Jessica Creighton at the Stadion Strelecky Ostrov

From 77,000 at the home of football to 300 here in cold, wet and snowy Czech Republic, you could forgive the players for not being motivated for this fixture.

And when they wet behind so early on, you wondered whether they were still feeling the effects of that bitter defeat to Germany three days ago. But the Lionesses responded perfectly. Two goals in three minutes put them ahead. Finally, some of that grit and enthusiasm they seemed to be missing in their recent games.

But for all their attacking prowess and confidence going forward, the same old questions will be asked about their defensive vulnerability. They look fragile when teams play direct and they have not kept enough clean sheets.

England have ground out a much-needed victory to sign off the year. They have been under more scrutiny than ever before. But as I could see when their winning goal hit the back of the net, it was more a sense of relief rather than celebration that oozed out of these players. They know they will have to find another gear if they are to compete with the best in 2020.

No international break for Super 6

FREE TO PLAY: Do not miss your chance to land the £250,000 jackpot for the fifth time this year!

Source : Sky Sports