At their first home fixture since winning the bronze in the summer’s World Cup, the Lionesses were greeted by a happy crowd of supporters at Ashton Gate, despite the awful weather.
Before kick off Jill Scott (accompanied by nephews Charlie and Dexter), Fara Williams and Casey Stoney were all awarded special UEFA caps as a tribute to reaching more than 100 caps apiece. (This is a new initiative from UEFA and welcome recognition of the contribution made by players in reaching 100 caps for their country.)
Of the three players honoured though only Casey Stoney took to the pitch in the starting line-up, while Williams and Scott took to the bench.
In their previous Euro qualifier away at Estonia, England had a relatively easy time putting 8 goals past their opponents, in this their second match their opponents, although ranked more than 70 places below the Lionesses, put up stiff opposition. Bosnia-Herzegovina made the England team work hard and put up an impenetrable defence with virtually every player behind the ball, defending deep and when called upon goalkeeper Almina Hodzic stepped up to the plate. Although not even the first choice keeper she definitely made the most of her opportunity as she plucked crosses out of the air and nobly assisted her team in frustrating England, she had a great game, as did her defence – they worked their socks off.
On just 9 minutes Jordan Nobbs rattled the cross bar but Hodzic made a double save as Christensen tried to make the most of the rebound. Three minutes later a shot from Jess Clarke was also saved by Hodzic and shortly after Eni Aluko poked a cross wide.
It wasn’t until the 24th minute that Bosnia-Herzegovina had their first foray into the England half and a shot at goal that was easily collected by Karen Bardsley – who was doing her best to keep focused and warm in the quite hideous conditions.
So it continued till half time with Bosnia content to let England have the possession, but working hard to close people down and restrict opportunities on goal.
Gemma Davison had a great half, but despite her twists and turns she wasn’t able to carve any real opportunities to open the scoring. The few real opportunities England had weren’t taken and they seemed to lack real cutting edge.
The second began with more of the same, although Bosnia had worked out the threat of Davison and as a result she had a quieter second half. Another great shot from Nobbs from outside the area was saved well by the keeper, and one began to wonder if England would actually be able to make the breakthrough.
On 54th minute Sampson made the substitution that would make the difference, he introduced centurion Jill Scott for Jess Clarke – the delight of the crowd who gave her a rousing reception.
Shortly afterwards Toni Duggan was introduced for Christiansen, as fresh legs and a direct threat in the goal area.
Usually you would expect Eni Aluko to be on the end of crosses into the box, but on the 68 minute Aluko put over a beautiful floated cross which Scott gratefully headed into the goal to the delight of the partisan crowd and the England bench.
Finally England were on the scoreboard, but if anyone thought this would break the resistance of Bosnia they couldn’t have been more wrong. England’s opponents continued to work behind the ball and disrupt play. No flood gates were going to be opened!
Bosnia did have a brief venture into the England half close to full time but their objective seemed to be more defensive than offensive although why they didn’t try and get something from the game I have no idea.
If anyone had any doubt about how awful the weather was, early in the second half Christiansen put the ball down for a free kick and it was blown across the field, as the rain also lashed down. So, with the conditions a 1-0 win not a bad result.
This result puts England into 2nd position in their group with Belgium at the top (probably their toughest opponents) and who they face next, on 8th April 2016 and just four days later they will travel to Bosnia-Herzegovina, by which time hopefully they will have figured out how to get through an 11 player defence.
England: 1 Karen Bardsley (Manchester City); 2 Amy Turner (Notts County), 5 Steph Houghton (C; Manchester City), 6 Casey Stoney (Arsenal); 4 Laura Bassett (Notts County), 8 Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal); 11 Jess Clarke (Notts County), 10 Isobel Christiansen (Manchester City), 7 Gemma Davison (Chelsea); 9 Eniola Aluko (Chelsea).
Substitutes: 14 Jill Scott (Manchester City) for Clarke 55, 17 Toni Duggan (Manchester City) for Christiansen 60, 12 Jemma Rose (Arsenal) for Houghton 84
Substitutes not used: 13 Carly Telford (Notts County), 15 Ellen White (Notts County), 16 Fran Kirby (Chelsea), 22 Fara Williams (Liverpool).
Goals: Scott 69
Head coach: Mark Sampson
Bosnia & Herzegovina: 12 Almina Hodzic, 2 Nikolina Dijakovic, 3 Antonela Radeljic, 4 Amira Spahic (C), 5 Melisa Hasanbegovic, 6 Marija Aleksic, 7 Andela Seslija, 8 Aida Hadzic, 9 Milena Nikolic, 10 Alisa Spahic, 11 Lidija Kulis
Substitutes: 14 Amna Lihovic for Dijakovic 80, 13 Zerina Piskic for Spahic 90, 15 Tatjana Stanic for Radeljic
Substitutes not used: 1 Envera Hasanbegovic, 16 Azra Numanovic, 17 Alma Kameric, 18 Svjetlana Crnjak
Head coach: Samira Hurem
Referee: Florence Guillemin
Team lists courtesy of The FA.
Qualifying Group Standings at 29 November 2015
|Bosian & Herzegovina||5||6|