Women close in on World Cup

England’s Women are just one point away from next summer’s World Cup after a narrow 2-1 win in Ukraine.

Mark Sampson’s side have won all eight qualifiers to date and are five points clear of second-placed Wales with two Group 6 matches remaining. A draw in Wales in August will seal a place at Canada 2015.

Ukraine 1-2 England Women

2015 Women’s World Cup Qualifier
Group 6
Arena Lviv, Lviv
Thursday 19 June

Casey Stoney, making her first start under Sampson, headed the visitors into a 10th-minute lead and Eniola Aluko doubled the advantage soon after from just a few inches out.

Ukraine had the better of the second half and Olha Ovdiychuk halved the deficit on 63 after England failed to clear a corner.

If Wales had dropped points against Belarus in Minsk, a win for the Three Lions would have secured qualification, but a late Natasha Harding hat-trick extended their hopes for at least another couple of months.

After the Ukraine goal, neither side were able to create many opportunities and Sampson’s charges held on to put themselves on the verge of progress.

There were two changes from the team that defeated Belarus at the weekend as Stoney and Jill Scott came in for Demi Stokes and Natasha Dowie, who scored twice the last time these two sides met, in May.

Eniola Aluko continued her scoring run against Ukraine

Eniola Aluko continued her scoring run against Ukraine

Arsenal defender Stoney slotted in next to Steph Houghton at centre-back and Lucy Bronze moved out to left-back, while Karen Carney took Dowie’s place up top with Manchester City midfielder Scott operating in the No10 role.

There was further reason for celebration for Liverpool midfielder Fara Williams who made her 129th England appearance, equalling Rachel Yankey’s all-time record.

Sampson’s side had to wait until five minutes before half-time before they broke the deadlock in Shrewsbury but it was a different story here in Lviv as two early goals helped lay the foundations for England’s victory.

The opening 10 minutes were fairly uneventful – until Stoney nudged the visitors ahead. Williams’s corner was headed goalwards by Houghton and Stoney completed the job, nodding the ball home from close range.

Four minutes later it was 2-0 as Jill Scott latched onto Jade Moore’s through ball, out-muscled Olha Basanka and prodded the ball beyond Ukraine goalkeeper Iryna Zvarych. 

The shot was heading goalwards but Aluko made sure and tapped the ball over the line from a matter of centimetres for her ninth goal of the qualifying campaign.

The hosts had spells in the first half where they enjoyed more of the ball but failed to cause England any real problems, with Karen Bardsley only called upon to catch a few over-hit crosses.

When Ukraine did pen England in their own half, Sampson’s charges worked their way out of danger with some calm defensive play. Alex Scott and Houghton hassled and harried Tatiana Romanenko, Jade Moore played the ball back to Williams who then showed exactly why she has earned so many caps. 

The 30-year-old played an exquisite ball into the path of Carney, who took it in her stride, but her angled shot was parried away by Zvarych.

Ukraine began the second half brightly, looking for a goal that would get them back into the contest, and potentially back into contention for at least a play-off place.

They failed to test Bardsley directly but did force Stoney to head a dangerous right-sided cross to safety.

Jill Scott came close to extending the lead when she headed Williams’s free-kick just wide of the target.

Anatoliy Kutsev’s side were increasingly growing into the game and they got their reward just after the hour mark. England failed to properly deal with Lyudmyla Pekur’s corner and Ovdiychuk took full advantage, side-footing the ball home from six yards out.

It was the first goal the Three Lions had conceded in this World Cup qualifying campaign.

The goal whipped a small but fervent home crowd into even more of a frenzy and spurred Ukraine on to search for the equaliser.

The impressive Pekur and Olha Boychenko tried their luck from range but both efforts were too high to trouble Bardsley.

Ukraine (4-4-1-1): 1 Iryna Zvarych (C), 2 Olha Basanska, 4 Valentyna Kotyk, 6 Lyudmyla Pekur, 8 Olha Boychenko, 9 Vira Dyatel, 11 Tatiana Romanenko, 14 Olha Ovdiychuk, 16 Alla Lyshafay, 17 Dariya Apanashchenko, 18 Iryna Vasylyuk

Substitutes: 10 Oksana Yakovyshyn for Romanenko (59), 21 Yuliya Korniyevets for Boychenko (85), 19 Maryna Masalska for Lyshafay (89)

Substitutes not used: 12 Kateryna Samson, 5 Dariya Kravets, 7 Olena Khodyryeva, 15 Iya Andrushcha.

Goals: Ovdiychuk 63

Bookings: Vasylyuk 59

Head coach: Anatoliy Kutsev

England (4-4-2): 1 Karen Bardsley (Manchester City); 2 Alex Scott (Arsenal), 5 Steph Houghton (C; Manchester City), 6 Casey Stoney (Arsenal), 3 Lucy Bronze (Liverpool); 7 Jade Moore (Birmingham City), 4 Fara Williams (Liverpool), 11 Jill Scott (Manchester City), 8 Laura Bassett (Chelsea); 9 Eniola Aluko (Chelsea), 10 Karen Carney (Birmingham City).

Substitutes: 16 Lianne Sanderson (Boston Breakers) for Jill Scott 69, 17 Jess Clarke (Notts County) for Aluko 79, 12 Alex Greenwood (Everton) for Carney 90.

Substitutes not used: 13 Siobhan Chamberlain (Arsenal), 14 Sophie Bradley (Notts County), 15 Dunia Susi (Notts County), 18 Natasha Dowie (Liverpool).

Head coach: Mark Sampson

Goals: Stoney 10, Aluko 14

Bookings: Bronze 53, Bassett 62

Referee: Cristina Dorcioman (Romania)