Last week at Southampton the Welsh women’s football team gained what was perhaps was their best ever result as the held hosts England to a 0-0 draw in front of over 26,000 fans and banished the memories of the 4-0 drubbing in Cardiff that they suffered at the hands of the Lionesses during their last World Cup qualifying campaign.
As you would expect for a side that sat second in the world rankings before the match England had the majority of the possession and chances but as the game wore on started to run out of ideas. The main talking point arrived after just ten minutes when a shot from Welsh midfielder Natasha Harding took a deflection of England captain Steph Houghton and was hacked off the line by Lucy Bronze. However replies clearly showed that the ball had crossed the line. It was of course far too early into the game to say that the incident would have decided the outcome of the game, but Wales can quite rightly feel hard done by.
From that point on England controlled the game but never really looked like breaking through Wales 5-4-1 formation. The closest they came in the first half was when a long range dipping effort from Nobbs beat Welsh player of the game Laura O’Sullivan in goal only to see her shot crash back of the crossbar.
England piled on the pressure in the second half but Wales stood firm. Manchester Citys Melissa Lawley gave England some much needed pace out wide when she was brought on but the longer the game went on the more it looked like it was to become the Welsh,s day.
Against England Wales showed that they could be compact and limit England without ever really looking like they wanted to take the game to them. The return match (likely to be played in either Cardiff or Swansea) could throw up a different challenge for the Welsh as it is likely they will need to get something from the game and maybe even have to win it to either gain the playoff spot or even win the group. It promises to be a fascinating rematch.
A few days later England played their first away game of the campaign as they took on Bosina. After a lacklustre first half which saw Bosina play with much of the game will eleven players behind the ball for much of the time, England finally made the break through Toni Duggan on 56 minutes. From that point on England never looked in any danger but had to wait till stoppage time to get their second when Jodie Taylor converted a penalty following a foul on Beth Mead. The only negative point for England came in the shortly after halftime when Alex Greenwood was sent off following a second yellow card. The win mean that England top the group, two points clear of Wales with both having played 5 matches. Russia can’t be discounted in the race to gain at least a playoff spot however as the sit four points behind Wales and have a game in hand. The Russians have yet to host England and also travel to Wales.
There is still a lot of football to be played before sides that will compete for the 2018 World Cup in France are known but one thing is for sure there will be plenty of drama along the way.