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England 0 France 0
England goalkeeper Lizzie Durack saved a second half penalty as a determined England side held France to a goalless draw at Stebonheath Park.
The opening fifteen minutes were largely cagey with France looking the more comfortable in possession and it was the French who carved out the first chance with Lea Declercq playing a one-two with Sandie Toletti on the edge of the area and sliding her shot past Lizzie Durack but also past the post.
England came back with Jess Sigsworth breaking down the right and sliding the ball into the area but Aurelie Gagnet was on hand to clear under pressure from Sherry McCue. The resulting corner, taken by Paige Williams, was met by a sweetly struck volley from Natasha Flint but Solene Durand was well positioned to save.
Ghoutia Karchouni was off target with a strike from the edge of the area and Durack was quick off her line to deny Kadidiatou Diani as she raced on to Declercq's pass.
The skilful Declercq was catching the eye on the left and another pinpoint cross caused danger for England but Williams did well to keep out Alexandra Atamaniuk's header at the expense of a corner. Moments later an inswinging cross from Atamaniuk proved to be awkward for Durack, who managed to claw the ball over the bar.
Another mishit cross caused problems for Durack early in the second half, this time by substitute Faustine Robert, the England keeper managing to touch the ball onto the bar and Martha Harris was able to clear.
Katie Zelem shot straight at Durand from distance but France were given a glorious chance to take the lead on 53 minutes when Williams handled in the area and a penalty was awarded. Declercq stepped up and struck her shot well but Durack dived low to her right to pull off an excellent save.
The introduction of Nikita Parris gave England an outlet and the winger looked lively after coming on but it was France who had the next attempt on goal, Karchouni's long range effort flying straight at Durack.
Sigsworth was battling hard up front and she did well to fashion a chance for herself when chasing a long ball and holding off the attentions of Griedge M'Bock Bathy but Durand was smartly off her line to come out and save.
There was a huge let off though for England when a misplaced clearance went straight to Duclercq who lobbed a stranded Durack but the ball came back off the post. Durack then needed to be very quick to deny Diani after she chased down an Aoife Mannion back pass.
Robert made a good run down the right and pulled the ball back for Diani but Mannion made a good challenge to prevent her from getting a shot in.
France continued to push late on but England continued to stand firm, Harris and Mannion having particuarly good matches in defence while Jade Bailey and McCue worked hard to help their side pick up a hard earned point.
England: Lizzie Durack, Martha Harris, Meaghan Sargeant, Jade Bailey, Aoife Mannion, Paige Williams, Natasha Flint (sub Nikita Parris 53mins), Sherry McCue, Katie Zelem (sub Beth Mead 80mins), Jess Sigsworth, Hannah Blundell. Subs not used: Megan Walsh, Felicity Gibbons, Abbey-Leigh Stringer, Ellie Stewart.
France: Solene Durand, Aurelie Gagnet, Marine Dafeur, Aissatou Tounkara, Griedge M'Bock Bathy, Aminata Diallo, Ghoutia Karchouni, Alexandra Atamaniuk (sub Faustine Robert 45mins), Kadidiatou Diani, Sandie Toletti (sub Clarisse Le Bihan 84mins), Lea Declercq. Subs not used: Tanya De Souza, Charlene Gorce, Charlotte Saint Sans Levacher, Lindsey Thomas.
Photos by www.jamesprickett.co.uk:
(top) Hannah Blundell challenges Solene Durand
(middle) Lizzie Durack saves Lea Declercq's penalty
(bottom) Jess Sigsworth in a 50-50 challenge with Aminata Diallo, with Jade Bailey looking on
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