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New Zealand 1 (Gregorius 51)
att: 20,076; at Brighton & Hove Albion F.C.>
New Zealand 1 (Gregorius 51)
att: 20,076; at Brighton & Hove Albion F.C.
England's Road to France series ended on a disappointing note as they were beaten by New Zealand in front of a crowd in excess of 20,000 at the Amex Stadium.
After a bright start, England struggled to make headway against a determined Football Ferns defence in a largely underwhelming performance in their last match before the World Cup Finals.
England did start the game well in the opening stages and had a chance to open the scoring when a poor pass from New Zealand goalkeeper Erin Tayler was intercepted by Fran Kirby who laid the ball into the path of Jodie Taylor but the striker's first touch was heavy and Tayler was able to deny her and make up for her error with a smothering save.
Five minutes later, an awful back pass from Rosie White gave Taylor another glorious chance in front of goal but once again, Tayler came to her side's rescue with an excellent block at point blank range.
Nikita Parris blazed a left foot shot over the bar but after their early vulnerabilities, the New Zealand defence tightened up from this point and Tayler continued her good form behind them with some impressive handling.
Then, moments before half time, the Football Ferns almost took the lead with their first attack of note with a drilled shot from the edge of the area by Betsy Hassett which was arrowing towards the top corner before Telford produced a superb one handed save, turning the ball over the bar.
New Zealand had served notice of their scoring capabilities before the break and six minutes after the restart, they took the lead. England failed the clear the ball properly despite having chances to do so and White's low shot was fumbled by Telford, Sarah Gregorius reacting quickest to tuck home the rebound.
Now forced to chase the game, England huffed and puffed but again showed a worrying lack of a cutting edge to break down determined opponents, who were well led by captain Ali Riley. Their best move came when Taylor and Kirby combined to set up Carney whose first touch from the chipped pass was sure, but the angle was just too tight and Nayler saved well at her near post.
Carney, who had breathed some fresh life into England after coming on, then turned creator as she whipped in a teasing cross from the left but Jill Scott was not quite able to control her header at the far post and it was off target.
Steph Houghton head onto the roof of the net from a corner late on as England's efforts for an equaliser was unsuccessful, leaving a number of questions to be answered ahead of their opening World Cup match against Scotland on Sunday.
England: Carly Telford, Lucy Bronze, Alex Greenwood, Keira Walsh (sub Georgia Stanway 89mins), Steph Houghton, Abbie McManus, Nikita Parris (sub Beth Mead 68mins), Lucy Staniforth (sub Jill Scott 68mins), Jodie Taylor (sub Ellen White 75mins), Fran Kirby, Toni Duggan (sub Karen Carney 54mins). Subs not used: Karen Bardsley, Millie Bright, Leah Williamson, Ellie Roebuck, Hannah Blundell.
New Zealand: Erin Nayler, Rebekah Stott, Meikayla Moore, Abby Erceg, Ali Riley, CJ Bott (sub Paige Satchell 84mins), Ria Percival, Katie Bowen, Betsy Hassett (sub Annalie Longo 73mins), Rosie White (sub Olivia Chance 73mins), Sarah Gregorius (sub Hannah Wilkinson 64mins). Subs not used: Anna Green, Emma Kete, Sarah Morton, Katie Duncan, Stephanie Skilton, Daisy Cleverley, Victoria Esson, Nadia Olla.
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