England draw with world champions USA in the SheBelieves Cup


England’s defensive frailties were laid bare once again in a 2-2 draw against world champions USA in the SheBelieves Cup

Before the game, the USA team announced that their players would have the names of women who have inspired them on the back of their shirts. Captain Alex Morgan selected former team-mate Abby Wambach while Mallory Pugh chose Beyonce. Jennifer Lawrence, J.K. Rowling, Malala Yousafza and Serena Williams were among some of the other names to feature.

The Lionesses were under the cosh from the first minute when Megan Rapinoe’s corner was whipped in and a header was blocked on the line by Abbie McManus. The USA’s cross-field balls unsettled England on several occasions and left them scrambling to get back into position before their opponents capitalised.

The goal was coming for the USA and with just over half an hour played, England were undone by a superb cross-field ball from Kelley O’Hara which found Megan Rapinoe who took the ball down on her chest and unleashed a ferocious strike to fire in her 43rd international goal from the edge of the box.

Rather than let their heads drop, England equalised almost immediately. Phil Neville’s side were awarded an indirect free-kick inside the area and captain Steph Houghton curled her strike home after Toni Duggan rolled the ball to set her up.

Crystal Dunn played yet another cross-field ball and O’Hara put a teasing ball into the area but England just about managed to scramble it clear.

After the restart, England looked like the better side and were rewarded for their positive play in the 52nd minute. A fantastic team-goal was finished by Nikita Parris after Lucy Bronze passed to Fran Kirby whose lofted ball set Parris up perfectly to coolly slot into the back of the net.

The USA, ranked number one in the world, remained calm despite being a goal down and slowly started to weather the England storm. Ellen White should have given England a two-goal cushion when she pounced on a poor pass from Abby Dahlkemper but her shot was just wide.

Once again, England were undone by poor defending from a set-piece. They failed to clear a corner and after a goalmouth scramble, Tobin Heath finally got the ball over the line for the USA equaliser.

The final 10 minutes plus stoppage time was played in frantic fashion with both sides going for the winner but in the end they could not be separated. Both sides have plenty of work to do on their defences before this summer’s World Cup comes around if they are to carry out their aims of winning the tournament.

The winner of the SheBelieves Cup will be decided based on Tuesday’s final games when England face Japan and USA take on Brazil.


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