England and the Netherlands picked up wins on the opening day of UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship second qualifying round Group 1 in Italy.
Only the winners of the four mini-tournaments over the next week will qualify for the finals in Nyon, Switzerland in June and England – reigning European Women's U19 champions – made a good start in their bid to claim the junior title, beating Serbia 3-1. Katie Wilkinson, 15, struck after six minutes and added a second just before the break, and although Ana Popov's free-kick with 19 minutes left reduced arrears, England confirmed a deserved victory in added time through substitute Freda Ayisi.
Lois Fidler, the England coach, told UEFA.com: "I think we deserved to win. We played against a team we had never faced, Serbia, and they played very physically. So, it was difficult for us, but we had the best opportunities and after scored two goals we tried to control the game. Serbia created a lot of pressure, but we played like a very good team."
Italy, who play England on Saturday, will have to recover from a 2-0 loss to the Netherlands. Goals in the first nine minutes by Kelly Zeeman and Tashira Renfurm opened up a lead and only fine work by Italy goalkeeper Valentina Casaroli prevented a heavier defeat.
The Netherlands now face Serbia on Saturday when the other three groups also begin, and Dutch coach Maria van Kortenhof said: "The next match against Serbia will be a measure of our chances. Of course the favourites are England, but nothing can be taken for granted in football before final whistle." Italy's Enrico Sbardella added: "Of course the two lapses of concentration in the first ten minutes decided the match. The Netherlands deserved to win."
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