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China won 5-3 on penalties
England rounded off their superb start to the season with a 0-0 draw against top side China in the Algarve Cup, although they went down 5-3 on penalties. England had the better chances in the game, which saw three key players absent, but the penalties defeat ended their record run under FA rule of six successive victories.
In Guia this morning, it could have been England's day. In the 78th minute, Eniola Aluko was rather unfortunate to have a goal disallowed after she hooked home from close range. Karen Carney whipped in a great corner which was headed on by Lindsay Johnson and Rachel Unitt and Aluko finished well only for the referee to disallow the goal. It was a tight match, with England more than matching their opponents and Lindsay Johnson of Everton performing well in place of captain Faye White, who was out with a knock. In the shoot-out, full-back Alex Scott missed England's first effort and that was enough for China to hang on for the win.
China have consistently been regarded as one of the super powers in the women's game and only lost the 1999 World Cup to the USA on penalties. They are currently ranked sixth in the world and their 5-3 victory on penalties meant they finished in seventh place overall at the Algarve Cup. As England were invited to participate in the bottom tier group, the best position they could finish in was seventh.
England had won their previous three matches in the annual Algarve Cup tournament: 4-0 against Northern Ireland, 4-0 versus hosts Portugal and 5-0 against Mexico, ranked 25th in the world. England are currently ranked 14th, but recent results may mean they move up in the FIFA World Rankings when the new table is published next Friday (25th March).
National Coach Hope Powell commented: "I thought we played well today and had the better of the chances. With a little more clinical finishing, we could have won the game. It's typical as an England team that we have lost on penalties, but it was another good experience for the players in the eventuality that one of our games goes to penalties in the Championship.
"This tournament has been a good test for the squad and it's been good to use players who wouldn't have normally had the chance in just one friendly. In particular, Emily Westwood and Jo Fletcher have been exposed to Senior tournament football for the first time and they have really done very well. I'd like to thank our Partners Nationwide for their continued support, with their funding helping us to compete in a thorough set of preparation games in the lead-up to the Championship. We're now looking forward to a break, before meeting up next month for another important test against Scotland."
England will next play Scotland on Thursday April 21st at Prenton Park, Tranmere Rovers FC, at 7.45pm live on Sky Sports. They will then go on to play Norway on May 6th and Czech Republic on May 26th, the latter also live on Sky Sports - venues to be confirmed shortly.
Tickets are now on sale for England's group games versus Finland at the City of Manchester Stadium on June 5th (ticket hotline 0870 062 1894, option 1) and versus Denmark on June 8th and Sweden on June 11th at Ewood Park (08701 123 456).
Photo - Eniola Aluko, whose late 'goal' was disallowed (Andy Shaw).
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