England ended the hopes of hosts Finland in a thrilling encounter to earn a place in the semi-finals of the UEFA European Women's Championship for the first time since 1995.
Two goals from Eniola Aluko, the second a brilliant individual effort, helped England to victory and put her ahead on three in the race for the adidas Golden Boot award. Hope Powell's team took a 2-0 lead early in the second half when Fara Williams added to Aluko's early strike but when substitute Annica Sjölund pegged them back in the 66th-minute, memories were rekindled of the match at UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2005™ when Finland retrieved a 2-0 deficit before succumbing 3-2. Aluko made it 3-1 straight from the kick-off but Finland battled right to the very end and set up a frantic finale courtesy of Linda Sällström's late effort.
Laura Österberg Kalmari had just sent a chance fractionally wide when England took the lead with a well-crafted move. It began with Katie Chapman, Kelly Smith helped it on and Williams' pass was beautifully weighted to dovetail with Aluko, who ended a clever run with a cool finish. The hosts were clearly determined to put on a show for the sell-out crowd and the goal brought the decibel level down a few notches. Lapses in England's concentration threatened to allow them back into the game, though, such as when Anita Asante lost control and presented Sanna Talonen with a shooting chance.
Finland's tactics varied between sending Sällström surging down the right or launching high balls into the middle. England captain Faye White was dealing well with the aerial onslaught but she took a heavy blow in the face in the 35th minute and was unable to play any further part. Finland sensed they had just gained an advantage and Jessica Julin came close from a corner before, from a bouncing ball, Anne Mäkinen sent a speculative volley over.The hosts wanted to strike hard at the start of the second half but instead it was England who doubled their advantage. Sue Smith's free-kick might have been finished off by Katie Chapman at the far post, Tinja-Riikka Korpela got a hand to it and Williams was there to prod it over the line.
Finland looked a beaten side but found a second wind when Sjölund bundled in a corner. However, no sooner had Finnish voices been raised in celebration than they were muted again as Aluko set off on a mazy run that took her past three defenders before firing home. Still Finland were not done for, with Sällström heading in another corner in the 79th minute. Two minutes later Rachel Brown saved well from Österberg Kalmari and the goalkeeper then had to ward off more pressure as the home team refused to give up. England now look forward to a semi-final with the Netherlands in Tampere on Sunday.
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