Millie Bright’s brilliant volley was canceled out by a stunning Janine Beckie strike as England Women played out an entertaining 1-1 draw with Canada Women in their opening match of the Arnold Clark Cup.
England were dominant in the first half at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium and deservedly took the lead in the 22nd minute when Chelsea defender Bright fired in from inside the box after Fran Kirby passed a short corner to Alex Greenwood.
But Olympic champions Canada started the second period brightly and equalized when Manchester City forward Beckie struck a goal-of-the-season contender from the edge of the box (55).
England had more possession and created 16 chances overall, but both teams pushed for a late winner before the match ended 1-1, an identical result to Germany’s clash with Spain earlier in the day.
The draw means Sarina Wiegman’s winning start to life as England Women head coach came to an end after six games, although the Canadians represented a significant step up in class from her side’s last fixture in November – a 20-0 win over Latvia in World Cup qualifying.
“This was the competitive match we needed,” Wiegman told ITV Sports. “We played a very good first half, we were a little sloppy, but we created chances. We have to be more ruthless to score the chances we create.”
England Women: Earps (7), Daly (6), Greenwood (7), Bright (9), Stokes (7), Walsh (7), Williamson (7), Toone (6), Kirby (6), Russo (6), hemp (8).
subs: Stanway (6), Bronze (6), Parris (6), Carter (7), Mead (6), White (N/A).
Canada Women: Sheridan (6), Riviere (6), Buchanan (7), Gilles (6), Lawrence (5), Grosso (6), Scott (6), Beckie (7), Fleming (7), Rose (7), Huitema (5).
subs: Prince (6), Quinn (5), Lacasse (6), Pickett (N/A).
Player of the match: Millie Bright.
England impress against Olympic champions
The draw on Teesside, coupled with equally-tough games against Spain on Sunday and Germany next Wednesday, are just the kind of tests England need ahead of the Euro 2022 finals this summer.
Mary Earps’ goal was the first to come under pressure when central defender Kadeisha Buchanan met Beckie’s 12th-minute corner with a firm header which was blocked before Deanne Rose lifted the rebound over the crossbar.
England skipper Leah Williamson, lining up in a midfield role, fired just wide from distance at the other end four minutes later after Lauren Hemp had chased down goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan’s hurried clearance, but Sheridan was picking the ball out of her net with 22 minutes gone .
For the third time in the game and the second in quick succession, Kirby pulled a corner short to the left foot of Greenwood and, although Sheridan punched her cross away from the immediate danger zone, Bright returned it with interest courtesy of a sweet volley to open the scoring.
Bev Priestman’s side responded as Desiree Scott and Julia Grosso started to make their presence felt in midfield, but with Keira Walsh dogged and Bright equally uncompromising behind her, they made little tangible progress.
England head coach Sarina Wiegman made five changes to her side for Thursday’s game.
Leah Williamson captained England while Rachel Daly, Demi Stokes, Fran Kirby and Alessia Russo came into the starting line-up from the team that beat Latvia 20-0 in November’s World Cup qualifier.
Beth Mead and Georgia Stanway dropped to the bench alongside Lucy Bronze, who returned to the squad following knee surgery in the summer.
Canada head coach Bev Priestman also made five changes to her side with Julia Grosso, Jayde Riviere, Jordyn Huitema, Ashley Lawrence and Janine Beckie starting in a team captained by Jessie Fleming.
Buchanan had to block from Alessia Russo and Ella Toone after Hemp had got in behind the Canadian defense once again 10 minutes before the interval. Hemp then hooked a 43rd-minute attempt wide from Williamson’s floated cross to send England in at the break well in control, but only a single goal to the good.
Canada adopted a much higher press as the second half unfolded in an attempt to deny the hosts time and space, and the ploy paid dividends 10 minutes after the restart when Beckie cut inside onto her left foot and thumped an unstoppable shot across Earps and into the top corner.
Hemp might have restored England’s lead within three minutes after breaking free down the left once again, although her effort was beaten away by Sheridan as Canada’s resurgence continued.
Wiegman’s response was to make four changes, one of which saw Lucy Bronze introduced for the first time since undergoing knee surgery in the summer, but it was fellow new arrival Beth Mead who tested Sheridan from range with 18 minutes remaining.
Jess Carter produced a vital block to deny substitute Nichelle Prince, who later shot straight at Earps when she might have done better. Sheridan then saved from Georgia Stanway in stoppage time, but there was to be no late winner.
Wiegman: It’s a great lesson
England head coach Sarina Wiegman said: “It’s a very great lesson and we need these lessons. This was a totally different game than we have had, the first six in September, October, November.
“Yes, we did well then, but we are going to get games like this at the Euros, so we need to play these games and learn from them, and we can develop.
“Tonight, we saw lots of players, we saw some different connections, we saw a very good Canada team and we can learn from that and take that. It gives us so much information and things to discuss and to learn from, so that’s what we take away from this game.”
‘That’s the England I know’
Canada head coach Bev Priestmanformerly Phil Neville’s No 2 during his time in charge of England, said: “In the first half we weren’t ourselves. We made adjustments in the second half and it was a much better account of ourselves.
“I’m incredibly proud of the performance and this team gave everything as they always do. We were on the ropes at times and we had chances at times so I think it was a fair reflection.
“England look more like the England I know. They are on their journey towards the Euros. They look way more ready than we have seen the last two times we played them. You would expect that group to do really well at a Euros on home soil. They were great tonight.”
Bright: Performance shows England progress
Player of the match Millie Bright told ITV Sports: “It was an exciting night. It shows the progress we have made as a team.
“We showed what we want to achieve and do, and you can see the improvement as a squad.
“The first half we were excellent, got really sloppy in the second, but we are happy with the point despite there being lots to work on.
“We were working on volleys the other day in training. It’s something I want to add into my game for club and country; I want to be more of a threat in the box. I’m happy I could help in that way.”
Asked about Bright’s contribution at both ends of the pitch, Wiegman said: “From the start in September when we started working, she feels really comfortable in our team and she plays well.
“Tonight her impact in the game, her contribution was absolutely huge because you score a goal and you’re very important in defence.”
England face Spain at Carrow Road on Sunday, kick-off 3.15pm. Canada take on Germany at the same venue, kick off 8.15pm.