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England beat Brazil but draw with Australia

Belgium and Denmark bow out of WWC play-offs

Several Man City Women’s players have been busy over the international period, playing for their respective countries in friendlies and World Cup play-offs.

Karen Bardsley, Steph Houghton, Abbie McManus, Jill Scott, Keira Walsh, Nikita Parris and Melissa Lawley were all called up to play for the England senior side while Esme Morgan and Jess Park were in action for the U19’s in Croatia.

England faced Brazil in their first of three home Autumn friendlies at Notts County; captain Steph Houghton and Nikita Parris started for Phil Neville’s side while Abbie McManus, Keira Walsh and Mel Lawley were on the bench. Goalkeeper Karen Bardsley withdrew before the match with an ankle injury and Jill Scott didn’t feature on the team sheet.

Parris claimed an assist on Fran Kirby’s goal and played brilliantly for her country, speeding up and down the right wing and causing the Brazilian left-back Camila real trouble. Fans had expected to see six time FIFA Best Women’s Player Marta but the Orlando Pride star only lasted just over twenty minutes.

Houston Dash star Rachel Daly played an exceptional game for the Lionesses and was unlucky not to score on multiple occasions. Parris also had a good chance to grab a goal when she beat Camila and cut inside the box, her first shot being saved by the keeper and the second firing over as the forward lost her balance; Houghton’s free kick also saved by the Brazilian keeper Barbara.

Birmingham’s Lucy Staniforth was brought on for Parris and Mel Lawley came off the bench to replace Fran Kirby who was named player of the match.

England’s double POTM, Fran Kirby

Following the withdrawals of both Jill Scott and Mel Lawley due to an ankle injury and illness, Neville went into the Australia game with more players missing from his original squad. The England manager gave Mary Earps, Lucy Staniforth and Beth Mead another start while Houghton, Abbie McManus and Keira Walsh represented the Blues; Parris on the bench.

England started the game well and while Australia were more of a threat than Brazil, couldn’t finish their first few shots on goal.

Alex Greenwood played a great cross into Fran Kirby but the Chelsea forward was denied by the Australian keeper Mackenzie Arnold, Keira Walsh looped a ball over the top to Lucy Bronze who played in Beth Mead, but the Arsenal player couldn’t find the net then or when she was played through by Walsh and few minutes later.

Kirby was the goalscorer once again when Beth Mead passed the ball through a crowded penalty area, the number 10 collecting the ball and turning before slotting her effort past Arnold.

Lucy Staniforth sent in a free kick, looking for Houghton but the effort went too far before Mead was brought down in the area, appealing for a penalty but the referee waved away any calls. Nikita Parris was brought on for Mead and made an instant impact, passing the ball wide to Bronze who sent in a beautiful first time cross, only for substitute Rachel Daly’s header to go over the bar.

Daly had another shot on goal when Greenwood sent in a cross and the NWSL player tried to backheel the ball into the net. Parris had a shot go wide before Australia brought on 15 year old Mary Fowler, her effort from outside the box seen over by Mary Earps.

The last fifteen minutes were highlighted by the referee’s seemingly bad decisions, in particular when Parris sprinted down the wing and cut into the area, Caitlin Foord bringing down the City player who instantly appealed for a penalty; the referee saying no.

Earps, who had already made on brilliant save, made another excellent one when she got a hand to the Portland Thorns Ellie Carpenter’s cross come shot; sending the effort over the bar.

England seemed to switch off a little towards the end as Australia were awarded a corner in the last five minutes of normal time, the ball being swung in and Clare Polkinghorne running unmarked into the box and heading the ball home to pull back an equaliser.

The Matildas celebrate Clare Polkinghorne’s equaliser

Neville then switched Abbie off for Arsenal defender Leah Williamson and Greenwood stepped up to take a free kick near the corner flag in the last minute, the Manchester United captain’s effort not able to pull back a winner for the Lionesses.

Reading’s Fara Williams, who is already England’s most capped player male or female, added more caps to her name when she came on against Brazil to secure her 169th appearance before being subbed on against Australia marking her 170th cap. Captain Steph Houghton is set to make her 100th appearance for the Lionesses against Sweden in November.

Meanwhile City youngsters Esme Morgan and Jess Park flew out to Croatia for their three games in UEFA Women’s U19 Championship Qualifying. Morgan who was captain for the games, netted once and Park five times as they beat Malta, the home nation and Slovakia to safely qualify for the competition.

Also in action were Belgium, Denmark and most recently Canada. Tessa Wullaert, Nadia Nadim, Mie Jans and Janine Beckie were all called up for their countries play off and CONCACAF qualifying games.

Belgium faced a tough test against Martina Voss-Tecklenburg’s Switzerland and went 2-0 up in the first game with Wullaert starting and playing a part in the first goal, before the introduction of West Ham forward Alisa Lehmann at half time got the wheels turning for the Swiss. Lehmann and Bachmann combined really well and Bachmann assisted both Lehmann’s goals meaning the next match would be crucial.

Wullaert again started and played the full ninety, the Red Flames pulling a goal back for a 1-1 draw, however it wasn’t enough as the Swiss went through 3-2 on aggregate.

Tessa Wullaert in action for the Belgian Red Flames against Switzerland

Nadia was in action for Denmark, playing in both games while Mie was an unused substitute in both their loses to the Netherlands. However Nadim did net a penalty in the second match, but it wasn’t enough and the Dutch will meet the Swiss to decide the last European place at the WWC next year.

Janine Beckie missed City’s game against Birmingham as she flew out to her native country to meet up with her Canadian teammates in preparation for their CONCACAF qualifying games against Jamaica, Cuba and Costa Rica.

City’s number eleven started and played 66 minutes in the first match before being subbed off, the Canadians winning 2-0 with Beckie having a good amount of involvement in the match. She didn’t feature in their 12-0 win over Cuba however she did start against Costa Rica and also found the back of the net in their 3-1 win over the Caribbean side.

The team will now reconvene in Manchester and start preparations for their match against West Ham United Women on Sunday 14th October at the Academy Stadium.