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A Jill Scott header late into extra time booked England a place in Thursday's UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009™ final against either Germany or Norway.
Like several teams before them in Finland, England found their best attacking intentions stifled by a Netherlands side fond of the defensive arts, and when they eventually registered through Kelly Smith just beyond the hour mark, Marlous Pieëte levelled almost immediately. That took the Oranje into their second period of extra time in four days, but where France fell on penalties, England prevailed with a dramatic goal from their substitute midfielder with four minutes left.
As expected, Alex Scott returned to the England lineup after recovering from a groin problem, but the absence of Karen Carney from the team sheet was a major surprise. Installed in her place on the right wing was Jessica Clarke, the 20-year-old making her first competitive international start, but as soon as the whistle blew, she, Sue Smith and Eniola Aluko began switching positions across England's front line as Hope Powell's troops sought to finesse a way through the Netherlands defence.
The results were rather more flat than fluid, though, despite England dominating both possession and territory in the first half. Clear-cut chances were hard to come by and when England could get a shot away, there was usually a player in orange ready to block, as Kelly Smith found after bamboozling Annemieke Kiesel-Griffioen and Manoe Meulen on the byline.
At the other end, the Netherlands looked intermittently dangerous on the break, while goalkeeper Rachel Brown just about intercepted a long ball through to Manon Melis. Carney was introduced after the interval and following a period of sustained pressure England finally broke the deadlock with 61 minutes gone, Kelly Smith sweeping the ball past Loes Geurts from Aluko's cut back on the left.
If England felt they had done the hard part, they were quickly disappointed. Just three minutes later, Pieëte – also making her first competitive start – fired low inside the near post after Melis had made room for herself down the right and played the ball across goal, the Netherlands demonstrating clinical efficiency when forced to attack. That stung their opponents, who failed to rouse themselves in normal time, though they ought to have scored in the second minute of extra time when Fara Williams shot over.
Substitute Lianne Sanderson then spurned an even better chance, hitting the underside of the crossbar from point-blank range following a Carney run and centre, while Chapman had a shot saved by Geurts and Jill Scott headed too high from a corner. However, just as it seemed the match – and possibly England's tournament – might end in penalties, Jill Scott angled Carney's corner down through Geurts's gloves and into the corner of the net. This time, there was no response.
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