England show no sympathy for hosts with first win
Thursday, 25 June 2015
Iceland 1-3 England
Ashleigh Plumptre, Charlotte Devlin and Georgia Allen fired England to victory in Group A as Iceland's excellent start went unrewarded.
Article top media content
• England win to go second in Group A – but Iceland's good start counts for nothing
• Ashleigh Plumptre lofts England ahead, Charlotte Devlin and Georgia Allen also score
• Consolatory note struck by Icelandic captain Andrea Mist Pálsdóttir
• Next in Group A: Germany v England and Spain v Iceland on Sunday
England claimed their first victory at the UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship to move second in Group A and effectively end Iceland's challenge with a matchday to spare.
However, the 3-1 success for John Griffiths's team in Akranes hinged on Ashleigh Plumptre's goal midway through the first half, at a time when the Icelanders were playing their best football of the tournament. Charlotte Devlin further doused home fires soon after the interval, although Andrea Mist Pálsdóttir's fine strike from a short free-kick brought a small consolation.
The early inroads had been made by Iceland, however. Kim Olafsson dragged a shot wide when released by skipper Pálsdóttir, then forced a desperate English block as the Nordic nation began determinedly. Agla Maria Albertsdottir also troubled the visiting rearguard with a jinking run, only to fire over. So it was against the run of play that England broke through in the 28th minute of a sometimes feisty opening. Charlotte Devlin measured her high through pass perfectly for attacking midfielder Plumptre to get in behind the Iceland centre-backs and finish first time. Plumptre, a player with senior domestic football experience, had earlier rued the offside flag that cancelled out her impressive header.
England's No17 was involved in the ultimately clinching second goal on 44 minutes, her searching ball being flicked on by Megan Finnigan for Devlin to score clinically. It was not what the 713 crowd had been hoping for at half-time. Pálsdóttir's superbly executed 66th-minute set piece was – although Chloe Kelly then kept Úlfar Hinriksson's side busy at the other end, culminating in Georgia Allen's close-range third from a late corner. The hosts' prospects of booking a second WU17 semi-final are now all but over, but for Griffiths and company a third last-four appointment is a realistic ambition.
Úlfar Hinriksson, Iceland
I'm extremely happy with the performance, the work-rate and the attitude that the players showed for 99% of the match. We started the game well, were flexible and England didn't know if we were going to fall back or push up. We had some chances but our attacking play needs more time and more work and we didn't use the chances, or possibility of chances, that we had in the first half. We got a little bit down when we conceded the goals but then we carried on working and pushing and trying our best every single second. Basically we got punished three times for errors that get punished at this level, but we played a good game and made a lot of progress from the last match. It was really important to score a goal and the next objective is to get one from open play – we'll try that against Spain. The game is all about scoring and when you do, you're happy.
John Griffiths, England
We worked hard and we also made hard work of it – we can keep the ball better. But Iceland's combination of sometimes putting a block on and sometimes pressing makes it difficult, as you're dealing with two different styles. Even so, I'm really pleased with the girls' attitude in trying to solve that problem although we still look a little bit nervous at times. We've set up a grandstand finish against Germany going into the last group game. We always have a game plan and a strategy but most importantly we're looking at our last game, at how the girls are doing and at how they're developing. We were patient with and without the ball and we knew we had to stay focused particularly when Iceland counterattacked. That caused us a couple of problems but the girls remained focused. And in the high areas of the pitch we moved well and created quite a lot of chances. I never felt worried throughout the game – we were in control.