England and Russia shared the spoils as they drew 1-1 at the Ernst-Abbe-stadion, Jena in their first UEFA Women’s Championship match. A game of few clear cut chances saw both teams battle hard in what was an entertaining Group A fixture.
Experience over youth
England started the match without striker Kelly Smith after an ankle injury ruled the Philadelphia Charge player out of the starting line-up. Smith was replaced by veteran forward, Marieanne Spacey as England head coach Hope Powell opted for experience over youth. Russia, unbeaten in their qualifying group were ate full strength although the absence of striker Larissa Savina from the squad was a blow for the coach Yury Bystritskiy.
A bright opening ten minutes saw both teams push forward in a bid to grab the opening goal, but a bout of poor fininshing ensured the scores remained level. Olga Letiouchova beat the offside trap in the third minute but fired well wide before a wasteful first touch by Angela Banks proved costly as she raced clear onto a long ball from Karen Burkes.
Russia then enjoyed a period of sustained pressure and pushed the England defence back. This allowed Tatiana Egorova and Irina Grigorieva to dictate the pace of the game in midfield and Natalia Barbachina sent a glancing header narrowly wide from a drive Grigoriva cross.
England showed only glimpses of the their attacking qualities as Russia’s back five, superbly marshalled by Marina Bourakoba made their extra numbers count. Susan Smith, lively on the left flank, put a weak header on target and then sent a dipping shot just over the bar.
On the stroke of half-time, England took the lead when Banks drove a low shot home from eight metres to give her side the edge in a close fought contest.
Russia upped the tempo at the start of the second half and created several good chances. Grigorieva saw her curling shot well gathered by Pauline Cope before the England keeper made a fine save to deny Barabachina from ten metres. Substitute Olga Kremleva shot just the wrong side of the post with her first touch and Barabachina wasted another opportunity before Russia finally equalised.
Alexandra Svetlitskaia burst into the England penalty area and just beat the advancing Cope to slot the ball home for a deserved equaliser. Following Germany’s 3-1 victory against Sweden in the other Group A match England and Russia must now look to win at least one of their remaining games if they are to progress.
Player of the match: Galina Komarova (Russia)
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