Sunday, 17 June 2012

England 1 v Holland 0 - UEFA Women's European Championship 2013 Qualifier

Sunday 17th June 2012, at the Salford City Stadium
UEFA Women's European Championship 2013 Qualifier
England (0) 1 - Rachel Yankey 67
Holland (0) 0
Admission £5 (50p booking fee), Programme £3
Attendance 5,505

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1 Rachel Brown, 2 Alex Scott, 3 Steph Houghton, 4 Jill Scott,
5 Sophie Bradley, 6 Casey Stoney(C), 7 Eniola Aluko,
8 Fara Williams, 9 Rachel Williams (18 Ellen White 46 mins),
10 Karen Carney (12 Anita Asante 72mins), 11 Rachel Yankey,
Unused Subs - 13 Siobhan Chamberlain, 14 Rachel Unitt,
15 Laura Bassett, 16 Jade Moore, 17 Dunia Susi

1 Loes Geurts, 2 Dyanne Bito, 3 Daphne Koster(C),
4 Mandy van den Berg (19 Leonne Stentler 86' mins),
5 Claudia van den Heiligenberg, 6 Anouk Hoogendijk,
7 Marlous Pieete (17 Sylvia Smit 74 mins), 8 Sherida Spitse,
9 Manon Melis, 10 Maayke Heuver (12 Marije Brummel 72 mins),
11 Lieke Martens
Unused Subs - 13 Sari van Veenendaal, 14 Petra Hogewoning,
15 Desiree van Lunteren, 18 Nangila van Eyck
A fairly scrappy game, all told ... but England needed a win, to keep their hopes of automatic qualification to Euro 2013 alive, so a gung ho, up and at 'em approach, leaving gaps at the back for the group leaders Holland to exploit, was never likely to be an option today.
As it stands, England are now second in the group, 2 points behind the Dutch, but with a game in hand.
On Thursday, the Lionesses women face an away fixture in Velenje, against a Slovenia team who they've already beaten, 4-0 (in Swindon, back in September).
Then they play Croatia at home (venue TBC) on September 19th, who they beat 6-0 in Vrbovec in March of this year.
Only the group winners will qualify automatically.
So two wins would see them through to the Euro 2013 finals in Sweden ... though it's still all ifs and buts for now, Hope Powell's side know what needs to be done and at least their destiny is still in their own hands.
As I've already said, this afternoon's game was a bit scrappy at times, with caution being the key word or both sides.
Don't get me wrong, there were some chances ... at both ends, but they were few and far between.
Women's football in this country is currently enjoying a boom time popularity wise, but this game would hardly have won over many new converts, from this evenings live television audience watching on BBC2. But surely even the most cynical of purist fans understand the ins and outs of qualification group football.
The second half was slightly better than the first, but it could hardly have been any less entertaining.
Ellen White did have the ball in the net early in the second half, but the flag had already gone up for an offside decision, before she even struck the ball home.
A couple of England free kicks around the edge of the visitors area amounted to nothing, but on 67 minutes, Holland captain Daphne Koster, brought Fara Williams on the edge of the box.
And while Loes Geurts frantically tried to get the Dutch defensive wall sorted out, Rachel Yankey took the free-kick quickly and found the back of the net.
That moment of quick thinking ingenuity, was still all that separated the sides at the end of the game.
Though Everton's Rachel Brown, in the England goal, had to be alert when holding on to Manon Melis' 20 yard, speculative injury time effort.
Not the most enthralling action I've ever seen, but today was all about taking points off your closest group rivals, so to that end ... a good evenings work for the England women and a majorly significant result. Job done!
There are those, who say that the Dutch, with their unique brand of support and the vibrant display of bright orange favours, add a great atmosphere and spectacle, to each and every game that they attend.
However ... I beg to differ!
But, due to there not being anything near a capacity crowd in the Salford City Stadium, we managed to relocate away from the irritating visitors, who'd turned the few rows behind us, into their base camp for the duration.
I'm all for unsegregated grounds and mixing with the opposition, but you've got to draw the line somewhere!
As for the Stadium itself.
This was a first time visit for me (still 'groundhopping', even though it's now the closed season), because there was a whole load of snow about, when I was going to drive over for the Salford City Reds v Castleford Tigers, Super League game earlier this season ... and knowing the area as well as I do, I wasn't keen on getting stranded there overnight, especially when that game was being televised anyway.
Thankfully, upon arrival, we were turned away from the car park, because I hadn't pre booked a £5 parking ticket in advance.
But there was a small roadside parking area, a couple of hundred yards away, that I managed to squeeze into. That meant we got a quick getaway at the end of the game, while people who had used the official car park ,had to wait for spectators who were on foot to leave the area before they were allowed to move ... and those in the aerodrome car park across the road (also £5) had to queue for ages before they could get out as well. I will remember this when I next travel over for a Rugby League fixture.
It's a functional and tidy enough arena, offering both standing and seating areas (which is a big plus in my book), it's easily accessible by road (including public transport) and caters for all ages ... except , today at least, for a few grumpy old gits who wanted a pint :-(
A UEFA ruling had decreed they couldn't sell alcohol in any of the public bars today.
Only UEFA delegates and their ilk in hospitality were allowed to have a drink.
The selfish bas, err... hypocrites!
But at least the stewards had a relaxed approach to people moving around the ground and didn't have the same kind of draconian attitude you quite often find yourself subjected to at football matches.
The M62 was a complete nightmare today, with it's mile upon mile of 50MPH average speed cameras, causing delays, in both directions ... but we were better stocked with supplies than Billy Bunter's picnic hamper and I'd specially prepared some seriously good tunes for the journey, so that (uncharacteristic) bit of forward planning, along with the entertainment provided by witnessing some of the mind boggling lane change manoeuvres going on around us, kind of eased the strain of the bumper to bumper slow 'progress', we got stuck in, for an all too time consuming part of our journey home.
Left click for enlarged image

Anyway ... Good luck to Hope Powell and her England women's team in Slovenia on Thursday.
And of course ... to the other England team who are playing against the Ukrainians in Donetsk on Tuesday night.