Five second-half goals ensured England gained a UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009™ qualifying Group 1 comeback win in the Czech Republic that leaves them in control of the section ahead of Thursday's decisive trip to Spain.
When Katerina Došková headed the Czech Republic in front on 28 minutes, England were facing the prospect of having to win in Zamora to pip Spain and avoid the play-offs. But after Emily Westwood was brought off the bench, her superb finish just past the hour mark levelled the scores before Kelly Smith's cool chip gave England the lead with eleven minutes left. In the next seven minutes Karen Carney, Jill Scott and Smith added to the advantage, giving England a big enough win to be able to afford any one-goal defeat in Spain. The Czech Republic needed to win by five goals to have a chance of topping the group but definitely go into October's play-offs as one of the four best third-placed teams across the six pools.
Home side ahead
England, who began the game with defender Lindsay Johnson in for injured captain Faye White, went close within two minutes when Karen Carney headed a Kelly Smith cross just wide. Lone striker Lianne Sanderson then pounced on a loose ball but Czech goalkeeper Marcela Zbořilová advanced quickly to block. Czech Republic captain Eva Šmeralova was forced off with a knee injury, Lucie Kladrubská taking her place in midfield, but the home side took the lead when Došková applied her head to a cross after a corner was only half-cleared.
Substitution pays off
Visiting manager Hope Powell made a change at the break with Westwood taking over from Sanderson, leaving Smith leading the line. And the substitution paid off when Smith and Fara Williams combined to supply Westwood outside the box – her strike gave Zbořilová little chance. England continued to press and on 79 minutes a long clearance from goalkeeper Rachel Brown found Smith, who coolly chipped Zbořilová. Two minutes later, Smith crossed for Carney to head England further in front and Williams then set up Scott to make it 4-1. Smith completed the scoring as she rounded Zbořilová.
Powell said: "We were very poor in the first half and I had words with the players at half-time. We made a few changes in the second half, the girls got back to the game plan and we were much, much better. The girls will be lifted by their second-half performance and we're in the driving seat for Thursday. We know that a draw will be good enough to qualify for the finals, but going out for a draw isn't in my nature nor my players. We'll be going for the win."