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Women's Football News
France 2 (Delie 59,82) England 2 (Houghton 34, J.Scott 39)
England's final match of the year ended in a draw after a second half fightback by France denied them a win on a soggy pitch at the Charlety Stadium.
However this did not tell the full story of a game which England led 2-0 at half time despite being comprehensively outplayed for most of the first half, staying in the game largely thanks to the heroics of Karen Bardsley and Alex Scott before conjuring up two superbly taken goals.
Hope Powell elected to field an experienced starting line up with Fara Williams being the surprise omission and Ellen White returning up front in place of Kelly Smith.
France seized the initiative early on and forced England onto the back foot but elected to try their luck with long range shots on the soaking wet surface. Louisa Necib, Marie-Laure Delie and Eugenie Le Sommer all had efforts but each was comfortably dealt with by Bardsley.
Bardsley then produced an excellent save to deny Gaetene Thiney an opening goal, diving low to her right to palm the midfielder's shot around the post.
France continued to dictate the play with England making little impression at this stage but Sophie Bradley was in excellent form in the centre of defence and made a number of important interceptions and challenges.
On the half hour though, France should have taken the lead when Delie outpaced Steph Houghton on the right and set up a straight forward chance for Le Sommer but she tried an extravagant flick inside of a simple sidefoot and mucked it up completely. The striker did do well to turn and shoot but Alex Scott had got back to block on the line and Delie missed an open goal from close range from the rebound.
There was more sloppiness from France at the other end four minutes later and they were made to pay. With Eniola Aluko bearing down on her, Sarah Bouhaddi elected to catch the ball instead of heading away and she carried the ball outside the area. The resulting free kick was touched aside by Rachel Yankey for Houghton to crash a brilliant strike into the far top corner for her fifth international goal.
The goal had come completely against the run of play but things got even better for England just five minutes later. Alex Scott's crossfield pass picked out Yankey in space on the left and she floated a delightful cross into the area for Jill Scott to guide a header past Bouhaddi and into the corner of the net.
Toni Duggan and Fara Williams came on as half time substitutes and the Everton winger was quickly involved with a shot wide and Anita Asante was also just off target with a strike from the edge of the area.
However the French soon picked up the pace again and there was a huge let off for England as Casey Stoney brought down Delie in the area for what looked to be a penalty but play was waved on.
Moments later, a ball into the area by Elodie Thomis was misjudged by Bradley, after initially slipping, but Alex Scott once again came to England's rescue by getting across to block Delie's goalbound shot.
However just as the home side's frustrations grew ever stronger, a mistake gave them a way back into the game. Under little pressure, Duggan badly underhit a back pass which was seized upon by Delie, Bardsley's attempted clearance was not strong enough and Delie was left with the simple task of running the ball into the empty net.
The goal gave France renewed vigour and they quickly sought an equaliser with a well struck effort by Le Sommer flying straight at Bardsley.
At the other end, Duggan was working desperately hard to make amends for her error and she produced a good strike from 25 yards which was inches over the bar.
The rain continued to pour down on an already aquatic surface and both teams were having trouble keeping their footing and a number of passes fell short of their intended target and running with the ball was becoming increasingly difficult.
England were hanging on at this point though and Bardsley again pulled off an outstanding save to keep them in front, this time diving full length to keep out Necib's low shot.
However the pressure eventually told with eight minutes remaining and a long ball out of defence by Corine Franco saw Stoney and Laura Bassett momentarily leave the ball for one another and Delie stole in and lobbed over a stranded Siobhan Chamberlain, who was unable to get back and prevent the ball from bouncing into the net.
England were left to negotiate the final few minutes but did so without any further alarms to come out of an eventful match with a share of the spoils.
France: Sarah Bouhaddi, Corine Franco, Laure Boulleau, Laura Georges, Ophelie Meilleroux, Sandrine Soubeyrand (sub Camille Catala 45mins), Louisa Necib, Marie-Laure Delie, Eugenie Le Sommer, Camille Abily, Gaetene Thiney (sub Elodie Thomis 45mins (sub Kheira Hamraoui 90mins)). Subs not used: Kramia Benameur, Sabrina Delannoy, Julie Soyer, Melissa Plaza.
England: Karen Bardsley (sub Siobhan Chamberlain 69mins), Alex Scott, Steph Houghton, Jill Scott, Sophie Bradley (sub Laura Bassett 79mins), Casey Stoney, Eniola Aluko (sub Fara Williams 45mins), Anita Asante, Ellen White (sub Dunia Susi 79mins), Karen Carney, Rachel Yankey (sub Toni Duggan 45mins). Subs not used: Jordan Nobbs, Rachel Williams.
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