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United States 1 (Morgan 24)
att: 14,369; at Stadium MK
A predatory first half goal from star striker Alex Morgan gave the United States victory in the friendly international at Milton Keynes.
In a game of few clear cut chances, the visitors had the better of things against an England side which was set up to sit back and hit on the counter attack. However, England can rightly point to Jodie Taylor being wrongly ruled offside when following up to score after Fran Kirby had hit the bar ten minutes into the second half.
Mark Sampson made five changes to the team which started the previous match against Germany with Jo Potter, Laura Bassett, Jill Scott, Taylor and Kirby all in the starting line up and the Reading FC Women striker caught the eye with a very encouraging performance against top class opponents.
The USA started the game on the front foot, winning a corner in the opening minute, but England also showed early glimpses, one fine turn from Fran Kirby taking her away from her marker and finding Jodie Taylor in the area but the striker hesitated momentarily as she cut inside and the chance was lost.
There was a scare for England as Alex Scott was dispossessed on the edge of the area by Carli Lloyd but the midfielder's pass into the box was wasteful. The best chance so far though came on the 20 minute mark as Steph Houghton's weak headed clearance fell into the path of Morgan Brian, the England captain atoned for her error though with an excellent block from the resulting shot.
USA had grown stronger as the half had worn on and they opened the scoring on 24 minutes. After her initial corner had been cleared, Becky Sauerbrunn returned the ball to Lauren Holiday on the right and her pinpoint cross was headed firmly in by Alex Morgan, despite Karen Bardsley's best attempts to keep the ball out. It was Morgan's 50th goal for her country, in only her 79th appearance.
Holiday tried her luck with a 25-yard free kick which was straight at Bardsley and Morgan was crowded out by three defenders on the edge of the area following a dangerous turn as the visitors continued to dominate proceedings with the impressive Brian pulling the strings.
Bardsley was forced to make a smart save at her near post from Ali Krieger and as the game went into first half injury time, there was a scare for England as Meghan Klingenberg whipped a cross into the area which bounced inches wide after deflecting off Laura Bassett. From the resulting corner, England were a little fortunate not to concede a penalty as Jo Potter appeared to haul down Abby Wambach but nothing was given and the half time whistle blew.
Early in the second half, Jill Scott made a fine saving tackle to deny Klingenberg in the area after she had latched onto a slide rule pass from Krieger. The resulting corner was initially dealt with but Brian returned the ball into the area with a dangerous cross and Alex Scott did very well to clear with a stooping header at the far post.
England responded with Kirby nodding the ball on for Taylor who carried it forward and drove a shot that was not too far off target. Despite not having a lot of service, the two England strikers were looking lively and should have brought their team level, but for a poor decision.
Kirby tried her luck with a well struck shot which Ashlyn Harris did well to tip onto the bar, Taylor followed up to slot home the rebound but England celebrations were sadly cut short by an offside flag. It looked close at the time and TV replays showed that Taylor had been comfortably onside when Kirby had struck the ball.
Morgan did well to fashion a chance for herself at the other end as she got past two defenders on the edge of the area but her shot lacked power and Bardsley saved comfortably.
Wambach had a header saved from a corner but the game had gone into a lull at this point, sparking off the inevitable Mexican wave in the crowd. Morgan livened matters up with a great piece of skill on the goal line to trick her way past Bassett, and the England defender was to come to her side's rescue moments later with a block to deny Klingenberg after she had been set up by Wambach.
England made a number of late substitutions in an attempt to get back in the game. A long range effort from Fara Williams flew straight at Harris - only their second shot on target in the whole match - but apart from this, they could not find any way through and USA closed the game out for victory.
England: Karen Bardsley, Alex Scott, Demi Stokes (sub Alex Greenwood 69mins), Jo Potter (sub Eniola Aluko 78mins), Steph Houghton, Laura Bassett (sub Jess Clarke 89mins), Jordan Nobbs (sub Fara Williams 81mins), Jill Scott, Jodie Taylor (sub Lianne Sanderson 81mins), Fran Kirby, Karen Carney. Subs: Gemma Bonner, Siobhan Chamberlain, Casey Stoney, Katie Chapman, Jade Moore, Carly Telford.
United States: Ashlyn Harris, Ali Krieger, Meghan Klingenberg (sub Crystal Dunn 78mins), Becky Sauerbrunn, Morgan Brian, Whitney Engen, Lauren Holiday, Alex Morgan (sub Amy Rodriguez 89mins), Abby Wambach, Carli Lloyd, Christen Press (sub Kelley O'Hara 90mins). Subs: Alyssa Naeher, Shannon Boxx, Heather O'Reilly, Julie Johnstone, Lori Chalupny, Tobin Heath, Rachel Van Hollebeke, Tori Huster.
Photos by www.jamesprickett.co.uk:
(top) Alex Morgan heads in the winning goal for the United States
(middle) Demi Stokes clears the ball away from Carli Lloyd
(bottom) Fran Kirby takes on Crystal Dunn
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