England put on a promising display against world champions Japan but were denied victory in Burton upon Trent in their penultimate pre-UEFA Women's EURO 2013 friendly
Eniola Aluko capped a lively first-half display with a strike not long before the break, but 14 minutes remained when Nahomi Kawasumi levelled an open game which either side could have won in front of a near-capacity 5,327 crowd.
With regulars like Stephanie Houghton, Casey Stoney, Karen Carney and Kelly Smith carrying injuries, a reshuffled England team had Alex Scott moved to left-back. Her right-sided slot was filled by Dunia Susi, while winger Rachel Yankey was captain on an afternoon when she won her 126th cap, beating Peter Shilton's national record.
There was an early scare for Japan when Rumi Utsugi's back pass nearly rolled in, but otherwise they were on top as Shinobu Ohno forced Karen Bardsley to save and Kozue Ando just failed to get a touch on a cross from Yuki Ogimi, Frauen Bundesliga top scorer with 1. FFC Turbine Potsdam.
At the other end, Aluko was making an impact, her long pass turned just wide by Ellen White before the winger embarked on a solo run which ended with a strong shot deflected off target. Ohno was denied by a brilliant Laura Bassett tackle and Bardsley got down well to an Ando free-kick, but Japan's quick counterattacking – the key to their 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup triumph – was looking very effective.
Still, Aluko continued to probe and looped a shot past a post following strong work by White. Four minutes before the break Aluko ran on to Yankey's diagonal pass and turned the ball beyond Ayumi Kaihori.
Anita Asante looked set to double the lead early in the second half but, with only Kaihori to beat, missed the far post. Lucy Bronze, one of two uncapped players named in England's finals squad, was brought on for her debut. However, with 14 minutes left Kawasumi levelled after some neat work in the box. The last few minutes were end-to-end stuff despite several substitutions for both sides, but it ended level.
England travel to face finals hosts Sweden on 4 July before opening their Group C bid against Spain eight days later, with Russia and France to come in Linkoping. Japan, meanwhile, face Germany at Fußball Arena München on Saturday with more than 40,000 tickets already sold.
England manager Hope Powell said: "I’m pleased with the fact we really competed against the world champions and competed well at times. Japan showed their quality especially before the substitutions, they gained momentum in th second half. Sometimes what I see at the time and what I see later when I watch the game back is different, but it was a good test for us, we didn’t lose, we scored, we drew."
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