England’s defensive concerns grow as the Lionesses suffer a 3-1 defeat in France

England prepare to attack a corner-kick.
Millie Bright, Jill Scott and Ellen White of England prepare to attack a corner-kick during the International Friendly Match between France and England at Stade Michel D'Ornano on April 09, 2021 in Caen, France. (Photo by Aurelien Meunier - The FA/The FA via Getty Images)

The Lionesses returned to action against France in one of two friendly fixtures scheduled to take place in preparation for the Tokyo Olympics.

How the teams lined up

France – Peyraud Magnin; Torrent (Perisset 85′) Tounkara, De Almedia, Morroni, Diani (Dali 85′) Geyoro, Palis (Jaurena 60′) Baltimore, Katoto and Gauvin (Asseyi 59′).

Unused Substitutes: Durand, Thibaud, Jean-Francois, Le Sommer, Khelifi, Picaud, Fleury, Deslandes and Ntambwe.

England – Roebuck; Daly, Williamson (Wubben-Moy 64′) Bright, Greenwood (Charles 46′) Walsh, Scott (Nobbs 73′) Kirby, Mead (Hemp 64′) Parris (Kelly 46′) and White (England 74′).

Unused Substitutes: Bardsley, Telford, Maclver, Morgan, Turner, Toone and Stanway.

As it happened

England struggled defensively in the opening stages but managed to drown out the early pressure from France. Both sides then began to grow into the match and created chances at each end of the pitch. Hege Riise’s team looked dangerous in their attacking play, through Mead and Parris. Their overall defensive shape improved as the match went on. 

A great bit of build up play from midfield by Keira Walsh who found Beth Mead with a perfectly timed ball, who then proceeds to square the ball on to Ellen White. She taps the ball into the back of net but the goal is disallowed due to offside. Moments later France spring a counter attack and the Lionesses defense was exposed. Sandy Baltimore is picked out and her finish curls into the top corner beyond Roebucks reach. 

Sandy Baltimore celebrates her goal during the international friendly women’s match between France and England at Stade Michel D’Ornano on April 9th, 2021 in Caen, France. (Photo by Matthieu Mirville/Icon Sport via Getty Images)

England then regained their focus and looked threatening towards the end of the first half. A accurate cross from Keira Walsh provided an opportunity to get an equaliser before half-time, her ball picked out Nikita Parris who’s headed effort was put wide. However they failed to trouble French keeper Peyraud Magnin as her team headed into the interval break with a 1-0 advantage.

Second half

There were two changes made by the Lionesses at half-time in France. Chloe Kelly replaced Nikita Parris and Niamh Charles made her senior debut by coming on for Alex Greenwood. England were quick out the blocks and immediately looked to equalise through Rachel Daly, her right-footed shot was just to high. Freshly introduced Chloe Kelly saw her header from Kirby’s cross just sail over the bar. Those two proceeded to combine on a number of occasions and tried to push England forward in attacking aspects.

Valerie Gauvin sustained an ankle injury shortly after the restart when challenged by right-back Niamh Charles. Bayern Munich midfielder Viviane Asseyi later came in to replace her.

France began to dominate possession. This pressure eventually culminated into a penalty, following a challenge in the box on De Almeida. Moments after coming on, Asseyi converts cooly sending Ellie Roebuck in the wrong direction.

Potential turning point

Fran Kirby of England scores their team’s first goal from the penalty spot during the International Friendly Match between France and England at Stade Michel D’Ornano on April 09, 2021 in Caen. (Photo by Aurelien Meunier – The FA/The FA via Getty Images)

Manchester City’s Lauren Hemp came on just after the half-hour mark replacing Beth Mead. She made an immediate impact to the game, driving at the French defenders causing a bit of chaos. She won her side a penalty kick after the French captain brought her down in the box. Chelsea’s impressive Fran Kirby composed herself and placed the ball into the bottom left corner for her 14th senior England goal.

England then had the chance to find an equaliser because of a brilliant run through the French defence by Hemp. Her ball in found her club-mate Keira Walsh on the edge of the box who’s strike agonisingly fires back of the post. France then regained their two nill cushion as Katoto exposed the English defence by getting around Wubben Moy and delivering a low cross for Diani tap in from close range.

Hege Riise’s second game in charge of the Lionesses ended in a 3-1 defeat to France in Caen. 

Player of the match

Keira Walsh of England in action during the International Friendly Match between France and England at Stade Michel D’Ornano on April 09, 2021 in Caen, France. (Photo by Aurelien Meunier – The FA/The FA via Getty Images)

Keira Walsh took her place in the heart of England’s midfield. The Manchester City regular controlled the play in the centre of the park and strung passes together to set her team on their way in attack. Walsh also helped out defensively when her team faced spells of pressure and made important interceptions when required. Kiera also had a chance to draw her team level after her strike fired back of the post. The number four had played the whole 90 minutes in England’s defeat.

The Lionesses are next in action on April 13 against Canada at 7.15pm. The game will air via BBC Four for UK viewers and on OneSoccer for those watching from Canada.

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