England 3 v 0 Japan (She Believes Cup)
England arrived at the Raymond James Stadium in Florida knowing that a victory over Japan would see them crowd winners of She Believes Cup. Having finished last year as runners-up in Neville’s first tournament the squad were looking to end his first year in charge of the Lionesses with a trophy.
The first effort of the match fell to England on eleven minutes, as Jodie Taylor almost gave them the lead with a fine effort, she received Christiansen’s cross with her back to goal and turned smartly before hitting a lofted shot just wide of the post from twelve yards.
A minute later, England took the lead Jodie Taylor plays a superb reverse pass to Lucy Staniforth, who surges from left to right before threading a precise low drive into the bottom corner from twenty yards. Yamane got a hand to it but couldn’t keep it out.
England extended their lead on twenty-three minutes, when Jodie Taylor allowed a throw in down the right to run across her body, losing her marker in the process and lobbed a first-time cross into the six yard box for Karen Carney to head home for a 2-0 lead.
A sustained spell of possession from Japan ends with their first shot on target, a speculative long-range effort from Sakaguchi that is comfortably held by Telford.
On thirty minutes, the Lionesses extended their lead even further, a world-class pass from Walsh, who beat Sugita in her own half and drove a majestic cross field pass to Mead on the right. She danced into the area and considered setting up Taylor or Bronze before smashing the ball past Yamane with her left foot to make the score 3-0.
The final effort of the half again fell to England as Lucy Bronze’s low cross from the right is dummied ingeniously by Jodie Taylor, who spotted Izzy Christiansen arriving late in the box. Christiansen was just beaten to the ball by Shimizu, who made a vital tackle as the two players collide painfully. Christiansen had to be substituted with what looks like a serious knee injury.
After making a couple of half-time substitutes Japan started the second-half much better and had the first effort of the half on forty-eights minutes. Yokoyama plays a good pass to Kobayashi, who bursts forward and drove a low shot wide from the edge of the area.
A minute later and Japan were on the attack again as Hasegawa drags another shot wide from the edge of the area. Then on fifty-three minutes Japan’s best chance of the match as Hasegawa plays a simple ball down the left to Sameshima, who cuts back inside onto her right foot and smashes a shot just over Carly Telford’s crossbar.
Another good chance for Japan as Yokoyama plays a stunning disguised pass to Momiki, who clips a left-footed shot across the onrushing Telford which went wide of goal.
On sixty-nine minutes, Kobayashi is tackled in the England area by Bonner who diverts the ball to Yokoyama, but her left footed driven shot from twelve yards is just wide of Telford’s right-hand post for a goal kick.
England should have extended their lead on seventy minutes, when Ellan White burst down the right and crosses deep into the area for Ubogagu, who thumped a header just over the bar from six yards. It looked like a bad miss at first, but replays showed that the defender at the far post got the slightest touch on the ball to put Ubogagu off her header.
A minute later, Ellan White misses a great chance to extend the lead as she sliced a shot wide from fifteen yards after intercepting a dreadful pass from Japan defender Minami.
England continued to press and Georgia Stanway went close on seventy-five minutes with a shot that whistled just over the Japan crossbar from twenty-five yards. An excellent effort from a player with lots of confidence.
After lovely build-up play from Japan, Yokoyama stands up a cross from the right that skims off the head of Houghton. It falls to Sugita, whose curling header drifts a fraction wide of the far post. On seventy-none minutes, Kobayashi’s spectacular snapshot on the turn is touched over the England crossbar by CarlyTelford. Japan have played some impressive stuff since making those half-time changes.
The final effort of the match came in the last minute a right-wing corner bounces through to Kobayashi at the far post, but her stinging half-volley is superbly blocked by Telford in the England goal, it was the best save of the match and meant the full-time score was 3-0 to the Lionesses.
England complete a superb week’s work by winning the She Believes Cup for the first in their history, having scored three first-half goals all beautifully created and stood firm in the second half, defending well as Japan upped their game.
The Lionesses now face four international friendlies back in the UK against Canada, Spain, Denmark and New Zealand before travelling to France for the 2019 Women’s World Cup opener against Scotland in Nice on the 9th June.
Speaking after the match manager Phil Neville said, “The players that have come in and that I trusted were fantastic. We do have a philosophy, a certain style that we want to play and part of that is that we’re not going to compromise on the fact that we have 23 players who are good enough to play for England. I thought we were sensational the players who came in made an impact and they’re causing me problems.
Before the tournament, I wasn’t worried whether we won or not, I wanted to see signs that we were on the right road and we fly home tomorrow with no doubt in my mind that we’re on the road to where we want to be. You don’t get many moments in your life when you get your hands on a trophy. We’re gonna enjoy tonight it’s a great reward for the staff and for the players, but I actually think we’ve got bigger things to aim for.”
England – Telford, Bronze, Houghton, Williamson, Greenwood, Walsh, Staniforth, Christiansen, Carney, Mead, Taylor (Subs) Bardsley, Earps, Bonner, McManus, Stokes, Daly, Kirby, Ubogagu, Stanway, Duggan, Parris, White
Japan – Yamane, Shimizu, Minami, Oga, Sameshima; Sakaguchi, Matsubara, Sugita, Hasegawa; Ikejiri, Endo (Subs) Takenaka, Utsugi, Ariyoshi, Kobayashi, Momiki, Miiura, Yokoyama, Miyagawa.
Goals – (England) Staniforth (12), Carney (23), Mead (30)