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England 3 (Taylor 22, Mead 26, Parris pen 75)>
Belgium 3 (Telford og 38, Van Kerkhoven 45,55)
England 3 (Taylor 22, Mead 26, Parris pen 75)
Nikita Parris scored a penalty with fifteen minutes remaining to salvage a draw for England following a fightback by Belgium in Leuven.
Jodie Taylor and Beth Mead had put England two goals ahead during the first half but poor and sloppy defending contributed towards the home side turning the game around and going in front but Parris' late rescue act.
Lucy Bronze, the UEFA Women's Player of the Year for 2019, was deployed in midfield and Rachel Daly occupied at right back. Abbie McManus partnered Houghton in defence and Taylor was given the nod up front.
The game exploded into life midway through the first half with Tessa Wullaert's pass releasing Janice Cayman whose shot was saved by Carly Telford. The resulting corner was cleared and England swiftly counter attacked, a quick move ending with a slide rule pass from Georgia Stanway playing in Taylor who lifted her shot over the oncoming Nicky Evrard for the opener.
Before the home side could recover, Taylor burst through with the chance for a second and although her shot was parried by Evrard, Mead was left with the simple task of tucking the rebound into the empty net.
Steph Houghton then hit the post with a 20-yard free kick but Belgium began to settle down after the double setback and brought themselves back into the game as half time approached. Wullaert's corner was met by Tine de Caigny who rose highest and although her header was blocked on the line by Bronze, Heleen Jaques reacted quickest to the loose ball and her shot struck the post and went back into the net off the unfortunate Telford, despite Bronze's efforts to keep the ball out.
Belgian tails were now up and they were back on terms on the stroke of half time, the crossed ball again causing England problems. Davina Philtjens overlapped down the left and fed Cayman whose cross picked out Ella Van Kerkhoven, who nipped inbetween Houghton and McManus to steer her header past Telford.
The comeback was completed ten minutes into the second half and England were left to rue more disappointing defending. A Wullaert cross was miscued by Houghton, whose clearance went straight at Van Kerkhoven who fired the ball into the roof of the net for her second goal.
England responded by bringing on Fara Williams but they made little impression until literally being handed a reprieve with fifteen minutes remaining. Cayman handled in the area under little pressure and a penalty was awarded. Parris, who had missed her previous two spot kicks during the World Cup, showed good nerve to find the top corner and bring her side level again.
Beth England, making her debut as a second half substitute, forced a save from Evrard with a header but the Lionesses had not done enough to win on the night. McManus was fortunate to only be booked for a late foul on Kassandra Missipo as England's frustrations became evident and they will be looking for a much improved display, especially at the back, when they take on Norway in their next friendly in Bergen on Tuesday night.
Belgium: Nicky Evrard, Laura Deloose (sub Kassandra Missipo 76mins), Davina Philtjens (sub Shari Van Belle 66mins), Heleen Jaques (sub Chloe van de Velde 79mins), Laura De Neve (sub Justine Vanhaevermaet 66mins), Tine De Caigny, Elena Dhont (sub Davinia Vanmechelen 45mins), Julie Biesmans, Tessa Wullaert (sub Elke Van Gorp 87mins), Ella Van Kerkhoven, Janice Cayman.
England: Carly Telford (sub Mary Earps 63mins), Rachel Daly, Demi Stokes, Keira Walsh (sub Leah Williamson 87mins), Steph Houghton, Abbie McManus, Nikita Parris (sub Lucy Staniforth 75mins), Lucy Bronze, Jodie Taylor (sub Beth England 75mins), Georgia Stanway (sub Fara Williams 56mins), Beth Mead.
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