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Bosnia 0-2 England: Lionesses roar to summit of World Cup qualifying group

Wednesday 11th April 2018

England’s Lionesses moved to the summit of their 2019 FIFA World Cup qualifying group following a hard-fought 2-0 victory over resolute Bosnia and Herzegovina on Tuesday. Toni Duggan and Jodie Taylor were on target as Phil Neville’s ladies prevailed in Zenica.

Neville and his team had much to prove after a lacklustre stalemate against Wales on Friday. More than 25,000 fans turned up to Southampton to witness Neville’s first competitive game. There was a mixture of bad blood and optimism in this old, fiesty derby. However, the visitors’ ultra-defensive set-up seemingly made the Lionesses toothless. The match ended goalless. Not a great start but then, after Tuesday's Champions League misadventures for both Manchester City and Barcelona, great starts aren't necessarily all they're cracked up to be.

Having faced Bosnia thrice in the last three years, The squad knew what to expect even if their new boss didn't. Samira Hurem fielded a defensive side with 11 players behind the ball. Skipper Milena Nikolic was the only player who showed interest in getting anywhere near the halfway line. To neutralise this negative approach, PNev needed to take a different approach than he had against Wales.

He rang the changes five times. Alex Greenwood and Isobel Christiansen replaced Demi Stokes and Fran Kirby after the latter pair withdrew from the squad. Jade Moore, Melissa Lawley, and Ellen White came in for Keira Walsh, Nikita Parris and Taylor.

As foretold, Bosnia attempted to follow Wales' lead in keeping England off the scoresheet. England hogged the ball in the first half but also failed to make their dominance count. They struggled to create clear-cut scoring chances. The Lionesses retired to the dressing room frustrated and as empty-handed as they had been at St. Mary's.

Matters then took a shocking twist after the restart when Greenwood received her second yellow card. Booked for dissent before the break, the Liverpool defender got her marching orders for diving.

Surprisingly, Greenwood's dismissal acted as something of a catalyst for Neville's team. The last straw, if you will. Just before the hour, Duggan pounced on a fine Melissa Lawley cross to give the visitors the lead. The Barcelona star couldn’t wait for a better time to notch her 20th international goal. Moments later, card-happy Greek referee Andromachi Tsiofliki made it 10 v 10 when she gave Amira Spahic a second yellow. Duggan almost made it two-nil soon after scoring her first, but her effort came out off the post. Still, it was game over for the hosts from then.

Steph Houghton then swung a vicious cross into the six-yard box. White met the volley but keeper Envera Hasanbegovic parried it behind for a corner. The Birmingham star came close once more, this time from Lucy Bronze’s right-sided cross. Her header was just high. England continued to dominate. When Beth Mead won a late spot-kick, Taylor stepped up and fired home her 17th international goal. Hasanbegovic guessed right but could not deny Taylor, newly on for Duggan. 

Ranked as the world’s second-best team, England are well on track to reach their ninth Mundial. They've amassed 13 points from five matches. Closest rival Wales are two behind. They face Russia away on Friday 8 June. France beckons.

Elsie Johnson

Elsie is an ardent follower of everything football. Fascinated by professional football in Spain, England and Germany. She takes pleasure in penning down her opinion about a sport that has more lovers than haters.

PS: She loves Barcelona for making football look easier than it actually is.

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