England Women were left disappointed as the hosts of The Road to France series were defeated 1-0 by Canada at the Academy Stadium in Manchester.
Chelsea’s Karen Carney started the match for the Lionesses while Blues centre-back Millie Bright was an unused substitute for Phil Neville’s side
It was a bright start for the Lionesses as some skilful play by Nikita Parris down the right wing resulted in a corner, which ultimately led to nothing.
Canada had the first chance of the game through Nichelle Prince, however, her volley from inside the box sailed way over the bar.
It was the Canadians who tried their luck again. After some neat play in and around the left hand side of the box, the resulting effort from Sophie Schmidt went wide.
Midway through the first half, England were struggling to take control of the game with the third chance going Canada’s way.
This time the ball fell to Prince at the edge of the box but thanks to some resilient defending from Lionesses captain Steph Houghton, the ball was blocked away from danger.
The chances came thick and fast for Canada but to no avail. Christine Sinclair found the ball and after some trickery outside of the box, her resulting effort went wide.
Jessie Fleming had an opportunity just before the half hour mark. A slip in the box by Houghton allowed the Canadian to take the shot, but it flew wide.
England shot-stopper Karen Bardsley was then involved for the first time in the game when Sinclair’s effort went straight to the keeper to claim.
The Lionesses were given a free kick on the 34th minute when Parris was brought down towards the corner flag. The set piece was unfortunately cleared by the Canadian defence.
With two minutes left before half time, England finally had a good opportunity. Parris received the ball at the edge of the box, where she managed to open up for a curling shot, which forced a save from Stephanie Labbé.
The second half saw a big improvement from Neville’s side as they stormed out of the gates early on. Toni Duggan nearly gave England the lead after the whistle when her curling effort from the edge went inches over the bar.
It suddenly turned into a game of end-to-end pinball as Canada almost took the lead moments later when Beckie’s powerful shot was well saved by Bardsley.
England regained a little momentum after Canada’s chance. The ball fell to Chelsea’s Carney who’s dipped effort nestled on the roof of the net.
Carney once again tried her luck from the outside of the box, which unfortunately went straight into the hands of Labbé before Duggan found space on the edge of the box and her powerful effort was saved brilliantly by the Canadian keeper.
The pressure was starting to take its toll on the Canadians as they struggled to contain the England onslaught. Some neat play inside Canada’s half landed to Lucy Bronze, who’s effort was blasted over the bar.
After all the pressure, it was the Canadian’s that took the lead with 10 minutes left to play, when Sinclair reacted the quickest to the previous effort which hit the bar and she tapped in the rebound.
England searched for an equaliser, and almost got one when Demi Stokes’ effort was deflected towards the side netting.
The majority of the last 10 minutes were spent in Canada’s half but England couldn’t capitalise on their last-gasp hunt.
After the match, Lionesses manager Neville felt that it was the ideal test for his side despite the defeat.
He said: “We did not deserve to lose.
“I thought it was a brilliant game in terms of the test that we wanted.
“I just thought our composure in the final third let us down.
“But I was really pleased with the game, so I can say I’m quite happy.”
By Darion Westwood