England sink Spain to close in on quar­ters

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Fran Kirby and Jodie Tay­lor handed England a 2-0 win over Spain in a game marred by heavy rain in Breda on Sun­day, to make it back-to-back vic­to­ries at the women’s Euro tour­na­ment. Ear­lier in the day, Carolina Men­des and sub­sti­tute Ana Leite gave Por­tu­gal a 2-1 win over Scot­land in a clash of Euro new­com­ers in Rot­ter­dam. England are all but into the quar­ter­fi­nals and sit at the Group D sum­mit, hav­ing thrashed Scot­land 6-0 in their opener.

The sec­ond knock-out round spot is likely to go to Spain or Por­tu­gal, with the for­mer the favourites as they take on bot­tom team Scot­land in their fi­nal group game on Thurs­day. The Scots ap­pear des­tined for an early exit, and will have to beat Spain by two goals to have any chance of pro­gress­ing. Chelsea striker Kirby picked up a pass from El­lie White in the sec­ond minute and stormed into the box, beat­ing Spain keeper San­dra Panos with a low shot to score her sev­enth in­ter­na­tional goal.

Tay­lor scored her fourth goal in two games five min­utes from the end, af­ter a pass from Jor­dan Nobbs found her in­side the box. “If you look at the over­all pic­ture, it’s a fan­tas­tic per­for­mance and a re­ally good re­sult,” said England coach Mark Samp­son. “Bloody damn happy. The spirit, the re­silience, the grit... It was all there tonight.”

A fran­tic open­ing pe­riod saw England skip­per Steph Houghton slam the ball over and Spain’s Alexia Putel­las send a weak shot straight at keeper Karen Bard­s­ley. It came to an end with a tor­ren­tial down­pour that damp­ened the pitch and slowed things down con­sid­er­ably with Spain on the front foot. The sec­ond half was very much in the same vein as the rain re­turnedS­pain dom­i­nated the game, push­ing for an equaliser, but they never re­ally came close as the soaked pitch ham­pered their play.

“We dom­i­nated the whole game but we weren’t lucky,” said Spain coach Jorge Vilda. “We are go­ing to con­tinue this way, I am con­fi­dent about my team.” In Rot­ter­dam, Men­des scored against the run of play on 27 min­utes af­ter a cross from Diana Silva which Scot­land de­fender Vaila Bars­ley com­i­cally failed to clear.

Scot­tish sub­sti­tute Erin Cuth­bert put Scot­land level in the 68th minute with a clin­i­cal fin­ish af­ter be­ing put through by Caro­line Weir. But Scot­land’s joy was short-lived as four min­utes later, Leite sprinted down the mid­dle and beat goal­keeper Gemma Fay with a low strike. “We are en­joy­ing this mo­ment - it is our first time,” said Por­tu­gal coach Fran­cisco Neto, whose side will need to bet­ter Spain’s re­sult against Scot­land when they face England on Thurs­day to reach the last eight. “We will try our best, but we know England are in the top three of Euro­pean teams in the rank­ings. But Por­tu­gal will fight with ev­ery­thing we have, for sure.”

Por­tu­gal scored from their sin­gle shot in the first half, de­spite Scot­land be­ing more threat­en­ing up front, with Lana Clel­land first fir­ing wide and then see­ing her shot tipped onto the post by keeper Pa­tri­cia Mo­rais. Scot­land found them­selves un­der pres­sure early in the sec­ond half, with Ca­role Costa and Ta­tiana Pinto fir­ing wide, just like Weir and Leanne Crich­ton at the other end. Men­des then sent her left-footed ef­fort just past the post and Leite fired over, while Weir hit the up­right five min­utes from the end as Scot­land des­per­ately tried to sal­vage their cam­paign.

Scot­land coach Anna Signeul be­moaned the missed first-half chances. “We should have been up 2-0 in the first half, but we could not put the ball in the net un­for­tu­nately, and then a counter and the ball takes that bounce off the de­fender and that was an un­for­tu­nate goal which put us on the back foot,” she said.

BREDA: England’s for­ward Jodie Tay­lor (L) vies with Spain’s de­fender An­drea Pereira (R) dur­ing the UEFA Women’s Euro 2017 foot­ball tour­na­ment match be­tween England and Spain at Rat Ver­legh Sta­dion in Breda city on Sun­day.

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