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England hold France in check

Published: Sunday 26 March 2006, 2.45CET
England 0-0 France Hope Powell's team kept the lively visitors at bay in Blackburn to stay a point clear at the top of Group 5.
by Alex Chick
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Published: Sunday 26 March 2006, 2.45CET

England hold France in check

England 0-0 France Hope Powell's team kept the lively visitors at bay in Blackburn to stay a point clear at the top of Group 5.

England kept a vibrant French attack at bay to earn a point from an even FIFA Women's World Cup Group 5 qualifying fixture at Ewood Park. The home side stay top of the section despite being outplayed for much of the second half after the introduction of French substitute Marinette Pichon.

Lattaf warning
After a cautious start to the match England began to create openings. Fara Williams stung the hands of goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi on 16 minutes, before Karen Carney failed to direct a near-post header from a Rachel Yankey free-kick on target. Eniola Aluko carved out England's best chance of the half, controlling a bouncing clearance from goalkeeper Rachel Brown and beating two players before firing a powerful shot straight at Bouhaddi. In added time Hoda Lattaf sounded a warning of things to come from the visitors as she latched on to a through-ball and sent an instant left-foot shot narrowly wide.

Pichon impact
France started the second period brightly enough before bursting into life following the 57th-minute introduction of Pichon, who replaced Lattaf. The 30-year-old came into the game with 78 international goals from 105 appearances and nearly made it 79 with her first touch, heading goalwards from eight metres only to be denied by a brilliant save from Brown, who sprang to her left to touch the ball on to the post.

Defensive change
Encouraged, France poured forward. Laëtitia Tonazzi went close with a powerful shot and England coach Hope Powell was forced on to the back foot, removing striker Aluko with 15 minutes left to bring on an extra defender in Alex Scott. England duly held on to move to ten points from four matches, a point clear of the Netherlands and three ahead of France.

Last updated: 26/03/06 22.26CET

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