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England Women take a step closer to qualification



England Women need just one point from their remaining two games to secure qualification to the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup in Canada, following a hard-fought 2-1 win over Ukraine.

First-half goals from Casey Stoney and Eniola Aluko earned the win for the Three Lions, who stood firm to deny a second-half comeback for the hosts, after an Olha Ovdiychuk strike clawed Ukraine back into the game just after the hour-mark.

The result means Mark Sampson's side are on the brink of progression to the finals, as they sit top of Group Six - five points clear of Wales and having maintained their 100% record.

City skipper Steph Houghton captained the Three Lions, whilst Karen Bardsley started in goal and Jill Scott took her position in midfield, before being replaced with just over 20 minutes left.

England started the brighter of the two sides and found the perfect start, opening the scoring with a Stoney header after just ten minutes.

Three minutes later, the visitors doubled their advantage, when Scott prodded the ball goalwards for Aluko to tap home from close range.

England looked very comfortable as they sailed into the break with a two-goal advantage.

At the half-way stage, it looked as though Sampson's side would earn qualification with a win, since Wales were being held to a goalless draw with Belarus.

England still had to see out their own encounter though and a goal for Ukraine on 63 minutes from Ovdiychuk, after a corner wasn't dealt with, could have set the nerves jangling.

A period of Ukrainian pressure tested the Three Lions' mettle but England defended resiliently to protect their lead and saw out the victory, which would have been enough for qualification had Wales not gone on to triumph in Minsk.

Elsewhere, Betsy Hassett completed 90 minutes for New Zealand, as the Football Ferns drew 0-0 with Brazil in Taupo.

In their 200th international game, Tony Readings' side had a goal disallowed for offside after just four minutes and saw an Amber Hearn header hit the crossbar in injury time, whilst goalkeeper Erin Naylor did well to keep out Brazil's best effort midway through the first half.

Following the 1-1 draw between the sides on Monday, the stalemate stretched the hosts' unbeaten run against the Brazilians to three matches.

Hassett took to Twitter after the game to share her thoughts:

Another draw tonight against Brazil.. Learn and move forward! Excited to get back to Manchester for the rest of the season! #mcwfc

— betsy hassett (@betsyhassett12) June 19, 2014

Meanwhile, Lynda Shepherd featured for Northern Ireland in their World Cup qualifier against Scotland in Belfast.

The midfielder played 45 minutes but was forced off through injury for the Green and White Army, who fell to a 2-0 defeat thanks to goals from Kim Little and Jane Ross in Group Four.

In yesterday's under-23s game between England and Norway, Natasha Flint notched up 74 minutes of action for the Three Lions in their final game of the Nordic Tournament.

Flint couldn't prevent the youngsters from falling to a 3-0 defeat and was replaced by Ellie Stewart with just over 15 minutes of normal time remaining.

The result followed Monday's 0-0 draw with Sweden, although the competition was used more as a warm-up for Mo Marley's side ahead of the upcoming U20s World Cup in August.


Houghton scores in England stroll

Manchester City Women’s skipper Steph Houghton was on the score-sheet and Karen Bardsley kept and clean sheet as England beat Belarus 3-0 in Minsk.


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