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England stay top after draw
 Women's Football News 28 Mar 2006
 
England stay top after draw - 28 Mar 2006 - Women's Football NewsEngland 0 France 0
att: 12,164; at Ewood Park

England hold on to top spot in Group Five after battling out a goalless draw played in wet conditions in front of a noisy crowd at Blackburn. In a match of few chances, goalkeeper Rachel Brown ensured she kept a clean sheet with a brilliant second half save.
 
Hope Powell opted for the same starting line up as that which beat Iceland 1-0 at Norwich earlier in the month, with Katie Chapman partnering captain Mary Phillip in defence. France meanwhile spring a surprise by leaving star striker Marinette Pichon on the bench.
 
France made a bright opening with captain Sonia Bompastor controlling matters during the early exchanges in midfield. England meanwhile looked nervous and were taking time to find their rhythm.
 
Casey Stoney made a great headed clearance to deny Hoda Lattaf as she was poised to head a Laetitia Tonazzi cross goalwards but, moments later at the other end, England produced their first effort on goal when Fara Williams tested Sarah Bouhaddi with a long range free kick.
 
England settled down and began to inflict more pressure, with the lively Karen Carney threatening down both flanks. One good run brought England a free kick on the right, but Carney was unable to direct a near post header on target from Rachel Yankey's cross.
 
Kelly Smith fired over after a corner had been half cleared and Eniola Aluko brought out a save from Bouhaddi after getting past a couple of defenders. A fine cross from Smith was not dealt with by the French defence but Yankey snatched at her shot from the edge of the area and it went wide.
 
Camille Abily shot wide from 25 yards after a strong run and there was a scare for England as Lattaf shrugged off Chapman when chasing a long clearance put planted her effort past the far post. This was France's first serious attempt on goal and the last of a first half which ended goalless.
 
The second half continued in the same vein as the first although France produced the first attempt this time, Tonazzi sidefooting wide after a misplaced pass from Chapman.
 
This led to the introduction of Pichon who almost struck with her first touch of the ball. Peggy Provost's far post cross picked out Pichon whose firm header was brilliantly touched onto the post by Rachel Brown. The goalkeeper hit her head on the post and needed treatment but she had kept her side on level terms.
 
Brown again made an excellent full length save from Tonazzi as France began to get on top. England were showing less as an attacking force at this stage but threatened to go in front fortuitously, with a Stoney cross almost dipping under the bar.
 
Another French substitute made an instant contribution but this time at the other end, Amelie Coquet preventing Carney from slotting home the loose ball after Bouhaddi had missed a Stoney cross. Chapman made a terrific clearing header from a Bompastor free kick, England broke away but Yankey was well tackled by Anne-Laure Casseleux. Williams fired over from 25 yards as England finished strongly but the stalemate was not to be broken.
 
England: Rachel Brown, Casey Stoney, Rachel Unitt, Anita Asante, Katie Chapman, Mary Phillip, Karen Carney, Fara Williams, Eniola Aluko, Kelly Smith, Rachel Yankey. Subs: Alex Scott (for Aluko 74 mins), Vicky Exley (for Asante 87 mins), Jo Potter, Siobhan Chamberlain, Amanda Barr, Lindsay Johnson, Sue Smith.
France: Sarah Bouhaddi, Anne-Laure Casseleux, Peggy Provost, Laura Georges, Sabrina Viguler, Sandrine Soubeyrand, Elise Bussaglia, Sonia Bompastor, Hoda Lattaf, Camille Abily, Laetitia Tonazzi. Subs: Marinette Pichon (for Lataff 56 mins), Amelie Coquet (for Bussalgia 86 mins), Elodie Thomis, Louisa Necib, Laure Lepailleur, Celine Deville, Maire-Ange Kramo.

Photo - Rachel Brown claims a cross, challenged by Laetitia Tonazzi and Camille Abily
(James Prickett).

 
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