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England 3 (J.Scott 21, Aluko 47, Stoney 79)
att: 5,821; at the Banks's Stadium, Walsall
England booked their place in the Euro 2013 Finals in Sweden by picking up the victory they required to top the group.
England were nowhere near their best on the day but did enough to cruise past a limited but spirited Croatia side which fought hard but caused them precious few problems.
With Kelly Smith missing through injury and Ellen White suspended, Eniola Aluko started up front in what was an otherwise regular starting line up. This included Rachel Yankey who was making her 120th appearance for her country, breaking the record previously held by Gill Coulthard.
An early breakthrough almost came as Karen Carney found space in the area and fired a shot which was well parried by Doris Bacic. Steph Houghton then produced a good piece of skill to make her way into the area but was denied by a good piece of covering from Dragica Cepernic.
Yankey wasted a good opportunity when shooting over after being put through by Eniola Aluko but England finally broke the deadlock on 21 minutes. Houghton broke down the left and pulled the ball back for Aluko, whose shot was not held by Bacic and Jill Scott followed up to slot home the rebound.
England continued to look industrious and tried to keep a fast pace going but Croatia were working very hard and hurled themselves into challenges to keep their opponents at bay. England did not help themselves by producing a number of disappointing final passes when getting into good positions.
Carney was looking very sharp on the right though and she whipped in a superb cross after getting away from two Croatian defenders but an unmarked Yankey sent her header wide.
Croatia produced a rare attempt on goal when a good run by Maja Joscak saw her set up Katarina Kolar whose shot deflected off Sophie Bradley and went straight at Karen Bardsley. Kolar then should really have levelled the scores just before half time after Bardsley failed to hold Joscak's shot but missed her kick and, after a moment's less than composed defending, England eventually got the ball away.
England got the second goal they craved within 90 seconds of the restart. Yankey carried the ball towards the edge of the area and fed Aluko who stabbed her shot past Bacic and in off the far post.
Houghton was inches over the bar with a powerfully struck free kick as England began to push for more goals. The next one almost came as, following a good passing move, Aluko threaded a through ball to Carney whose shot came back off the post, Cepernic blocked the rebound from Aluko and Yankey tried to force the loose ball home but her shot was charged down.
Fara Williams charged down a clearance from Bacic and tumbled when trying to retrieve the loose ball but play was waved on. Yankey was quickest to react but was unable to force her shot home. Croatia then went straight on the attack and Kristina Sundov did well to create some space for herself just outside the area before firing just over.
The 17-year-old Bacic was having an excellent game in goal for Croatia and, after diving to palm away an angled drive from Yankey, she picked herself up to deny Alex Scott from the rebound, tipping her shot over the bar.
Houghton was unlucky with a near post effort from a Carney corner which fizzed inches over the bar. Bacic again pulled off a good save, tipping an Anita Asante shot onto the post and out for a corner, providing a memorable moment for Toni Duggan as she came on to make her international debut, in place of the record breaking Yankey.
Moments later, Carney rolled the ball across the edge of the area to Stoney who drilled a firm low shot which arrowed into the corner of the net for the third goal.
Duggan was denied a dream moment as she latched onto an Alex Scott pass in the area but her shot was blocked by the legs of Bacic. Duggan tried to hook the rebound home, however the ball was bundled away by the Croatian defence.
Williams fired over from around 30 yards following a lay off by Jill Scott and Asante shot straight at Bacic after getting onto the end of a Claire Rafferty cross.
After drawing their opening match in Serbia, England went on to claim their place in Sweden by winning six of the remaining group games whilst keeping seven successive clean sheets.
England: Karen Bardsley, Alex Scott, Steph Houghton, Jill Scott, Sophie Bradley, Casey Stoney (sub Claire Rafferty 86mins), Karen Carney, Anita Asante, Eniola Aluko, Fara Williams, Rachel Yankey (sub Toni Duggan 78mins). Subs not used: Rachel Brown, Jess Clarke, Dunia Susi, Laura Bassett, Rachel Williams.
Croatia: Doris Bacic, Dragica Cepernic (sub Izabela Lovna 75mins), Ana Jelencic (sub Martina Salek 67mins), Gabrijela Gaiser, Allison Lee Scurich, Helenna Hercigonja Moulton, Maja Joscak, Andrea Martic, Katarina Kolar, Iva Landeka, Kristina Sundov (sub Monika Conjar 84mins). Subs not used: Ivana Vrdolak, Mateja Bulut, Andreja Valusek.
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