England Controversially Edge Past Scotland
England controversially edged past Scotland in their FIFA Women’s World Cup group stage opener in Nice.
First half goals from Nikita Parris and Ellen White put England in command following a first half where they dominated the play.
However, Scotland improved dramatically after the break and a goal from Claire Emslie set up a nervy end to the match for England.
Shelley Kerr’s side will feel hard done by after a controversial penalty award after 12 minutes.
A cross from England midfielder Fran Kirby into the box hit the hand of Nicola Docherty. After a delay the referee consulted video replays and awarded a spot kick.
Under the new interpretation of hand ball there is no doubt it was a penalty. But there will big debate whether it was intentional given how close Docherty was to the ball.
Scotland will take a lot of confidence given their second half display and will still fancy their chances of qualifying for the knockout stages.
It was a bright start from Scotland who were looking to play on the front foot in the early stages.
On 12 minutes, England were controversially awarded a penalty thanks to VAR.
England midfielder Fran Kirby curled across into the box, which hit the hand of Scotland defender Nicola Docherty.
The referee checked the replays and awarded a penalty, even though it appeared a harsh decision given the close proximity between Docherty and the ball.
Up stepped Nikita Parris who smashed the ball into the net to give England the lead.
England almost doubled their lead six minutes later. Fran Kirby hit a shot from just outside the penalty area, which went just wide.
England were beginning to dominate. A cross into the box by Lucy Bronze found Ellen White inside the penalty box. But she was denied by a superb save by Lee Alexander in the Scotland goal.
On 32 minutes, England winger Beth Mead picked up the ball and drove into the box. She unleashed a stinging shot, which was well beaten away by Alexander.
Despite a bright start, Scotland were struggling to create chances and test Karen Bardsley in the England goal.
Five minutes before half time, England doubled their lead. Ellen White picked up the ball just inside the penalty area and curled the ball into the net past Alexander.
Minutes later, Scotland had a great chance to get back into the game.
Poor defending by England allowed Erin Cuthbert to get a shot away from just outside the box, which went just wide of goal when she should have done better.
Better From Scotland
It took 57 minutes, before Scotland finally tested Karen Bardsley in the England goal. Claire Emslie hit a shot on the angle from just outside the box, which was comfortably the England keeper.
The early stages of the second half were more even, with Scotland having more possession. However, they were struggling to break down a resolute England defense.
With 20 minutes to go, England almost added a third. A corner was headed on by midfielder Jill Scott. The ball found it’s way to Ellen White who was denied from close range by a brilliant save from Lee Alexander in the Scotland goal.
Scotland were starting to get into some good areas but their final pass and decision making was lacking.
But on 78 minutes, Scotland got back into the game. England defender Steph Houghton gave the ball away to Scotland midfielder Lisa Evans.
She drove forward and picked out a superb pass to set Claire Emslie in on goal. Emslie showed great composure to get a shot away, which took a slight deflection and went into the net.
Scotland were unable to force another chance as they chased an equaliser. In the end, England showed great game management as they kept possession to hold on and claim all three points.
Next up for Phil Neville’s side is Argentina on Friday night in Le Havre.
For Scotland, they face former World Champions Japan in Rennes on Friday afternoon.
Written by David Coates
Photo credit to Lionesses via Twitter