Yet here they were, back on home soil and back in action only 33 days on from that devastating evening in Sydney.
The pain of losing games of such magnitude tends to linger a little longer in the hearts and minds.
Eight of the starters picked for tonight’s clash with Scotland were named in the side for the clash against Spain Down Under. Owing to the delayed start to this season’s Women’s Super League, none have had the chance to run off any of that heartache in club colours.
A win was always going to be the perfect medicine. The performance was far from vintage but perhaps that was all which was needed to help consign the heartbreak of four weeks ago to the history books.
Sarina Wiegman made an attacing team selection for the Lionesses’ first game back after the World Cup
Lucy Bronze broke the deadlock against the Auld Enemy with a brilliant header
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Sarina Wiegman’s attacking team selection certainly made you think so. There were no wholesale changes for their Nations League opener against the ‘Auld Enemy’.
The Scots came into the game unbeaten in their last six and played with a fire in their bellies, perhaps inspired by the pyrotechnics that welcomed the teams onto the pitch in front of a packed Stadium of Light Crowd.
The visitors looked set for a long night when they fell behind to headers from Lucy Bronze and Lauren Hemp. The Scots looked frazzled by the intensity England played at in the first-half.
But on the stroke of half-time they responded with a goal through Kirsty Hanson and grew in belief in the second period.
In fact, they looked more likely to draw level than England to extend their lead. Yet as they did so often during the World Cup when they were not at their best, the Lionesses found a way.
The initial stages suggested no signs of a World Cup hangover as England zipped the ball about, leaving the visitors chasing shadows. All that was missing was the final pass to make their dominance pay.
In fact, ‘dominance’ perhaps understates the Lionesses’ start. Scotland hardly had a sniff, let alone a kick, in England’s half of the pitch early on.
But it was they who had the first big chance of the game when Caroline Weir was allowed to turn and shoot in the box. She was only brilliantly denied by Mary Earps, who moved sharply to her left to bat the ball away.
Lauren Hemp doubled England’s lead with another header after 45 minutes in a comfortable half for England
Kirsty Hanson grabbed a leveller against the run of play with the final touch of the first half
Then England thought they had their breakthrough when Katie Zelem’s corner was met by a thumping header from Rachel Daly.
‘Freed from Desire’ belted out around the stadium. Daly was announced as the scorer. Then all eyes turned to Italian referee Maria Sole Caputi, the party pooper, who stood in the Scotland box with her arm aloft for an offside.
The 41,947 here were predominantly from the younger generation but the boos that reverberated around the stadium told you they were already well-versed in how to respond when a decision goes against your team.
Scotland continued to go blow-for-blow with the hosts and thought they should have had a penalty when Martha Thomas looked to have been bundled over by Millie Bright.
But soon after England’s opener did come through local hero Lucy Bronze. The defender spent the formative years of her career with the Black Cats and doesn’t score many for England – in fact, she only has 12 in 112 caps for her country.
Make that 13 in 113 now as she leaped higher than the rest to nod Katie Zelem’s cross past Lee Alexander in the Scotland goal. A cursory glance across to the lineswoman confirmed celebrations were in order this time around.
If that was a sucker punch for the Scots then what was to follow looked to be the knockout blow. Rachel Daly’s curling ball into the box was headed home by Lauren Hemp to double England’s advantage on the stroke of half-time.
Rachel Daly saw her header puzzlingly ruled out early on. Despite it being direct from a corner, Chloe Kelly was judgd to have obstructed goalkeeper Lee Gibson in an offside position
Lauren James wrongly saw a header disallowed as England held on for their victory
But with the final kick of the first half Scotland found themselves back in it. Claire Emslie’s teasing ball found England sleeping and Hanson stole in and made just enough contact with the ball to squeeze it past Earps.
Scotland emerged from the break sharper than the Lionesses, who created their own problems at times and looked increasingly ragged as the game wore on. How they missed the calming presence of Keira Walsh, missing through injury, in the middle of the park.
Emslie almost got onto the end of a cross herself before Alex Greenwood cleared away in the nick of time before Hanson nearly had her second in bizarre circumstances when her scuffed volley clipped crossbar.
Though Lauren James wrongly saw a late header ruled out for offside, England were very much left holding on for their victory. But it is one that gets their inaugural Nations League campaign off to the perfect start.
IT’S ALL KICKING OFF!
Source From: Football | Mail Online