This most recent international period has seen no fewer than 18 City players represent their country, by far the biggest contingent being the Lionesses with nine players called upon by Phil Neville for games against Canada and Spain, while Esme Morgan and Lauren Hemp represented the side at U19 level.
Karen Bardsley, captain Steph Houghton, Abbie McManus, Demi Stokes, Keira Walsh and Nikita Parris started England’s game against Janine Beckie’s Canada at City’s own Academy Stadium, in a game where Kenneth Heiner-Møller’s side claimed a winner thanks to record chasing captain Christine Sinclair.
The closest the Lionesses came in the first half was a header by Lucy Bronze, the defender playing midfield for the evening rose to meet a corner sent in by Toni Duggan, but Steph Labbé was equal to it and then just before the break, Jodie Taylor made a run down the left wing with Parris sprinting up the pitch. The forward arrived in the box to connect with Taylor’s cross as Allysha Chapman got back to defend but Nikita got the better of her and set a shot up on her right foot; Labbé getting down to her right and saving it.
Canada had a few decent chances in the second half, a poor clearance from Rachel Daly seeing the ball land at the feet of Jessie Fleming in the box but the forward’s effort only went over the bar.
City’s own Janine Beckie also had a chance to put Canada ahead but her shot was stopped by her club teammate Karen Bardsley.
The opposition goal came with ten minutes of normal time left, Ashely Lawrence playing a long ball into the area from a wide position, Nichelle Prince brining it down well before hitting the bar with the rebound causing Bardsley to go down. Christine Sinclair, who was also in the area, capitalized on Bardsley’s unable to react fast enough and poked the ball home to take her closer to reaching, matching and possibly beating Abby Wambach’s goals scored internationally.
Despite the introduction of Georgia Stanway, taking the number of City players on the pitch to eight, the Lionesses couldn’t find the back of the net.
England then travelled down to Swindon’s County Ground to take on Spain, who they’d faced in the group stages of the 2017 Euro’s in the Netherlands, Phil Neville making nine changes to his starting eleven including bringing in young goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck to make her first start.
Spain started positively and Roebuck was called upon a handful of times in the first fifteen to twenty minutes; England’s back four looking a little wobbly. A new centre back pairing of Millie Bright and Leah Williamson, with Alex Greenwood at left back and Rachel Daly at right back were forced to defend heavily; Beth Mead getting back to help out Daly.
Following the miscommunication, the team buckled down and settled into the game, their hard work and focus rewarded with a goal shortly after.
Greenwood made a run into the Spanish half and found Toni Duggan, who under pressure from the opposition had no choice but to lay it off to Jade More. The forward then made a run into space as Moore played a lovely pass, cutting out the Spanish, Duggan cutting inside and beating the right back. Ellen White made the run in behind and connected with Toni’s pass and despite calls for offside, the Birmingham forward drew Sandra Paños off her line and crossed the ball for an arriving Mead to slot home into an empty net.
A swap at the break saw Roebuck replaced by Wolfsburg keeper Mary Earps and before the half has got anywhere; England are 2-0 up. Moore was involved once again, chipping the ball over the defender for Jill to connect with having made the run in behind, the midfielder picking it up and playing it to Ellen; the Spanish defender turning only to late to see White’s first time touch in the top right corner.
England managed to hold their opponents out for a while and Phil Neville made several changes, swapping Toni and Jade out for Chioma Ubogagu and Lucy Staniforth with Spanish manager Jorge Vilda making his fourth substitution; eighteen year old Aitana Bonmati on for Amanda Sampedro. Bonmati made an almost instant impact and put Spain back in the game with her goal just four minutes after coming on. Former Arsenal player Vicky Losada played it wide for Mariona Caldentey, the Barcelona player cutting inside and beating Daly; drawing Mary Earps out. The ball fell to Bonmati, who was in the right place at the right time to shift it onto her right foot and put it into the bottom left.
That wasn’t the end of the Lionesses troubles though, struggling to get the ball forward, they were forced to sit back and defend.
A long ball over the top from the defence fell nicely for sub Esther Gonzalez who was sitting on the shoulder of Millie Bright, the forward unable to get a shot away as Earps came to clear. The goalkeeper then comes well out of her area leaving the defender’s in goal to block any shots and attempts to clear the ball away from Bonmati, the eighteen year old faking one direction while going the other causing Mary to slip. With no one to save the shot, she goes for goal and luckily for Earps and the Lionesses, her effort from the edge of the box goes wide in the last major action of the game.
Meanwhile at St. George’s Park, Esme and Lauren had been called up by Rehanne Skinner to participate in the U19 Euro Elite Round Qualifying with only the top team out of the group of Turkey, Sweden and Italy; progressing to the finals.
City defender Morgan captained the side in the first game against Turkey and played 45 minutes with Lauren Hemp making an appearance in the second half, scoring in the 81st minute; England winning 7-0. The Young Lionesses beat Sweden 4-0 with Esme captaining the side again and playing 90 minutes while Hemp was an unused substitute, both City youngsters playing 90 minutes against Italy with Lauren scoring the winning goal in their 2-0 win; qualifying for July’s finals in Scotland.
Shelley Kerr’s Scotland travelled to Spain to play South American teams Chile and Brazil, as their own preparations for the World Cup ramp up before a final game against Jamaica next month.
City players Jen Beattie and Caroline Weir were named in the starting eleven against Chile, in which the Scots ran out a 1-1 draw after going 1-0 up early in the first half thanks to Erin Cuthbert. The Chelsea player connected with a cross from Kirsty Smith and buried the ball into the back of the net, both sides having chances after that with Cuthbert and Lizzie Arnot coming close to a second goal; Cuthbert’s chip blocked and Arnot’s effort saved by PSG keeper Christiane Endler.
Chile’s second half penalty was conceded by goalkeeper Lee Alexander with Daniela Zamora sending her the wrong way to net the equaliser and despite their efforts, Lisa Evans going close with a header and Cuthbert having two more shots on goal; the Scots couldn’t find the winner.
Three days later, Caroline and Jen were joined in the starting line-up by Claire Emslie, the forward making it to just past the hour mark when she was replaced by Man United’s Kirsty Smith.
The side put the Brazilians under pressure from early on with Sophie Howard hitting the crossbar with a header, the opposition responding minutes later with an effort of their own. Beattie could have put her side 1-0 up in the sixteenth minute when a cross from Kim Little was met by the defender, but her effort went just wide.
Scotland took the lead in the sixty eight minute when Lizzie Arnot made a run down the right wing and crossed the ball into the area for Little to net the winner.
Having won 1-0 against England, Canada travelled to Spain to take on Nigeria, Janine Beckie once again in the starting eleven, playing eighty five minutes before being replaced and netting a goal in the forty sixth.
Tessa Wullaert and Megan Campbell were also in action for their respective countries, Tessa for Belgium and Megan for the ROI. Wullaert played ninety minutes and was captain in Belgium’s 6-0 defeat to the USA while Megan played 58 minutes against Italy in their 2-1 loss before being replaced.
Pauline Bremer made her return to international football after a lengthy spell out of the squad due to injury, the last time she played for Germany being the 2017 She Believes Cup when she faced some of her now teammates playing against England. The forward came on to play 19 minutes against Sweden and then 9 minutes against Japan, the Germans beating the Swedes 2-1 while drawing with Japan 2-2.
The Lionesses return to action next month when they take on Denmark and New Zealand in Walsall and Brighton respectively, on May 25th and June 1st in their final games in the Road to France series; the new England kit released for sale on May 16th.
Man City Women return to action this weekend in the semi final of the SSE Women’s FA Cup, taking on Chelsea FC Women at the Academy Stadium with kick off at a later time of 15:30pm. Tickets are available and those who have season cards should have received a Print@Home ticket due to problems with the cards that rule them out of use on Sunday.
The other semi final is between Reading FC Women and West Ham United Women at an earlier kick off time of 12:30pm with both games being shown on the BBC via the Red Button and then BBC Two.
England v Canada line-ups
Karen Bardsley, Lucy Bronze, Keira Walsh, Steph Houghton ©, Nikita Parris, Jodie Taylor (Ellen White 72’), Toni Duggan (Georgia Stanway 83’), Karen Carney (Beth Mead 63’), Demi Stokes, Abbie McManus and Rachel Daly (Jill Scott 71’)
Subs (not used): Mary Earps, Alex Greenwood, Leah Williamson, Chioma Ubogagu, Jade Moore, Lucy Staniforth and Gemma Bonner
Stephanie Labbé, Allysha Chapman (Jayde Riviere 54’), Kadeisha Buchanan, Shelina Zadorsky, Ashley Lawrence, Desiree Scott, Christine Sinclair ©, Sophie Schmidt (Julia Grosso 74’), Nichelle Prince (Deanne Rose 81’), Janine Beckie (Shannon Woeller 90+3’) and Jessie Fleming
Subs (not used): Erin McLeod, Sabrina D’Angelo, Jordyn Huitema, Gabrielle Carle, Lindsay Agnew, Jenna Hellstrom and Vanessa Gilles
Bookings: Chapman 34’
Goals: Sinclair 80’
England v Spain line ups:
Ellie Roebuck (Mary Earps 46’), Alex Greenwood, Millie Bright, Jill Scott ©, Toni Duggan (Chioma Ubogagu 53’), Leah Williamson, Rachel Daly (Gemma Bonner 66’), Ellen White, Georgia Stanway (Keira Walsh 66’), Jade Moore (Lucy Staniforth 53’) and Beth Mead (Nikita Parris 82’)
Subs (not used): Jodie Taylor, Karen Carney, Demi Stokes and Abbie McManus
Bookings: Scott 18’
Goals: Mead 36’ and White 47’
Sandra Paños, Irene Parades © (Ivana Sanz 51’), Vicky Losada (Angela Sosa 78’), Marta Corredera, Mariona Caldentey, Jennifer Hermoso (Esther Gonzalez 83’), Alexia Putellas, Silvia Meseguer (Virginia Torrecilla 37’), Maria Leon (Leila Ouahabi 53’), Amanda Sampedro (Aitana Bonmati 62’) and Andrea Pereira
Subs (not used): Maria Asuncion, Celia Jimenez, Marta Torrejon, Barbara Latorre, Olga Garcia and Irene Guerrero
Bookings: Leon 19’ and Caldentey 90+4’
Goals: Bonmati 66’