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England 1 (Williams 66)
Russia 2 (Barbachina 69,90)
att:1,439; at the Memorial Stadium
The new season opened up with a disappointing defeat for England who were beaten in injury time after a largely disjointed display at the Memorial Stadium against a Russia side who also missed a number of opportunities during the game. However it was a bizarre winning goal with the last kick of the game which gave the Russians victory.
England could well have been a goal down in sixty seconds as a hesitation to clear the ball allowed Elena Fomina to break clear but Leanne Hall saved her side by making a double stop from the Russian striker. Russia continued to enjoy the better of the early exchanges and passed up another glorious chance, Irina Voskressenskaya's cross was nodded back across goal by Olga Kremleva for Larissa Savina who miscued with only Hall to beat.
England gradually began to settle down and a good move involving Leanne Champ and Fara Williams led to a corner, from which Rachel Yankey fired in a dangerous low cross which Svetlana Petko gathered at the second attempt. Williams drove a free kick straight at Petko as both teams struggled to gain control of the match which by now had gone into a lull.
Yankey tested Petko with a 20-yard drive following a good pass by Jody Handley but Russia again had a great chance to take the lead. Savina's low ball into the box saw a mix-up between Hall and Casey Stoney and Kremleva swivelled to turn her shot wide. Kremleva then sent a free header wide from Fomina's cross as the lively Russian forward line continued to cause the England defence problems.
A good run from Yankey led to a far post cross from Rachel Unitt which was just too high for the oncoming Handley and Walker stretched to reach Leanne Champ's chipped pass in vain, but once again it was Russia could well have opened the scoring as Olga Sergaeva's long clearance was latched on to by Kremleva who missed her kick as Hall advanced from her line.
The half time whistle brought an end to a mainly scrappy first half, not helped by an over-fussy referee who appeared not to have heard of the word 'advantage'.
One of Russia's five half time substitutions, Natalia Barbachina, did not improve their finishing straight away as she shot wildly over when released by a fine ball from Tatiana Egorova. Hall needed to be alert to clear an underhit back pass from Stoney under pressure from Barbachina before England finally burst into life around the hour mark.
Firstly, a good run down the right by Kristy Moore when released by Chapman saw her pull the ball across goal for Yankey who was crowded out by the Russian defence, and then Tatiana Zaytseva made a fine clearing header from McDougall's cross under pressure from Moore.
A good move culminated in Yankey being brought down for a free kick and England's increasing pressure then told. Good persistent play, firstly from Vicky Exley and then from Unitt saw the lively Sue Smith burst past two defenders before crossing for Williams who controlled before volleying superbly past Maria Pigaleva to put England in front.
Williams then tested Pigaleva with a low free kick, from which England were hit by a sucker punch. Olga Letyushova did well to keep the ball in play on the left before crossing for an unmarked Barbachina to head past Hall from close range.
Moore made a good run down the right where her cross was well held by Pigaleva under a challenge from Yankey and Russia broke away, the bounce from Galina Komorova's cross deceived Phillip and Letyushova dragged her shot wide when well placed. Barbachina then headed home an Egorova cross but her celebrations were cut short by an offside flag.
As the game entered injury time, Russia took the game in a 'move' started in bizarre fashion. Yankey's pass cannoned off the referee and into the path of Egorova whose neat through ball released Barbachina on goal past an England defence wrong footed by the deflection and the striker calmly tucked the ball past Hall. The final whistle blew seconds later and there was no coming back for England.
England: Leanne Hall, Leanne Champ, Rachel Unitt, Katie Chapman, Casey Stoney, Mary Phillip, Jody Handley, Fara Williams, Carmaine Walker, Kelly McDougall, Rachel Yankey. Subs: Kristy Moore (for Walker 45 mins), Sue Smith (for Handley 62 mins), Vicky Exley (for McDougall 62 mins), Toni-Anne Wayne, Rachel McArthur, Kirsty Pealling, Ellen Maggs, Anita Asante, Amanda Barr, Lindsay Johnson.
Russia: Svetlana Petko, Olga Karaseva, Olga Sergaeva, Tatiana Zaytseva, Marina Kolomiets, Tatiana Egorova, Lina Rabakh, Elena Fomina, Olga Kremleva, Irina Voskressenskaya, Larissa Savina. Subs: Natalia Barbachina (for Kremleva 45 mins), Maria Pigaleva (for Petko 45 mins), Irina Grigorieva (for Rabakh 45 mins), Olga Letyushova (for Savina 45 mins), Galina Komarova (for Fomina 45 mins), Tatiana Skotnikova (for Sergaeva 78 mins), Elena Morozova.
Photo - Fara Williams volleys England in front (Andy Shaw).
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