Kelly Smith scored a hat-trick as England comfortably defeated the Netherlands 4-0 in south-east London to leave Hope Powell's side needing a point from their final qualifier in France next month to progress to the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup in China as the winners of Group 5.
One of seven Arsenal LFC players in the England starting XI, the 27-year-old sent England on their way with a superb individual goal in the tenth minute, following it up with a penalty in the 24th. Having been denied a third goal by Marleen Wissink late in the first half, Smith completed her haul five minutes after the restart, and Rachel Yankey added gloss to the scoreline by scoring direct from a free-kick in the 67th minute.
The Dutch, whose victory in France in September last year enabled England to wrest early control of the section, worked their only chance of note in the opening minute, home captain Mary Phillip timing a tackle perfectly to divert a Dionne Demarteau shot behind after the winger was afforded the freedom of The Valley following a raking pass from deep. England replied in kind, Alex Scott and Carney combining to work a chance for club-mate Smith which she headed just wide.
Five minutes later the England playmaker made no mistake, underlining her status as one of the world's best by bringing down a ball on her chest and skilfully sweeping past two central defenders before rifling a fierce left-foot shot beyond Wissink. Rachel Yankey, Carney and Eniola Aluko, playing on home turf in Charlton, each then passed by half-chances to double the advantage before Smith did just that.
Having shown superior strength to wriggle past Sheride Spitse on the by-line her charge was halted illegally by Liesbeth Migchelsen's high foot. Smith made no mistake from the spot, wrong-footing Wissink with another precise shot into the left corner. The 1. FFC Frankfurt goalkeeper, on her 138th appearance, was equal to England's next foray of note, acrobatically turning Aluko's first-time shot behind after a neat move involving Rachel Unitt, Fara Williams and Carney.
Despite their advantage, England began the second half purposefully and were rewarded in the 50th minute as Scott took a quick throw to Smith who teased Spitse before firing a shot high into the net off Carney. The look on Yankey's face after she had curled in the fourth from an acute angle suggested it was not deliberate, yet everything else about England's performance was and they can look forward to a potential decider in Rennes on 30 September with confidence high.
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