For as scrambled as cohesive as England have looked in recent games they looked a different team, a change that wasn’t due just to the unfamiliar personnel on the pitch. The ball was moved far quicker and the three at the back system looked far stronger with recognised centre-backs in it, with three creative giants in Jordan Nobbs, Karen Carney and Izzy Christiansen on the pitch the ideas coming out of midfield were for once, good.
Nice and physical from front to back, England frequently had the muscle to beat Sweden off of the ball, even if Baglut had the technical skill slip past, a yellow shirt would invariably come up against the likes of Millie Bright and be halted in their attack.
Header chalked off
A bit of a scramble and nippy play saw Stina Blackstenius nod a solid header past Siobhan Chamberlain half-way through the first-half, the Lionesses given a let off when the referee saw the lineman’s flag aloft. At the other end, England were seeing more chances, creating more, clearly with better ideas but the final ball as often over-hit or too high for anyone to cleanly attack.
However, with a real lust to move forward and make their presence count, it was hard to see England not battling away to find an opening, the team finally looking like a team with real ambition. Conversely, as in the Norway game, Sweden didn’t look like the finished article, the team that had so much success at Rio, confusingly absent.
Still with plenty of fire, England were almost undone by a whipped cross once more as half-time substitute Pauline Hammarlund met Jonna Andersson’s delivery and forced a neat low save from Chamberlain. An enjoyable end-to-end contest, Sweden seemed the antithesis of England, seeing less of the ball the crosses being sent in were far better, England unable to deliver an attackable ball.
Chamberlain denies Asllani
The England fans in the stands left incensed after Christiansen had her shot from outside the box blocked by Nilla Fischer, the fans shouting hands but the play waved on as England countered. England carved open as Lotta Schelin broke into the box only to be taken down by Gilly Flaherty, the referee blowing up for the penalty. One WSL player against another as Kosovare Asllani was on penalty duty, her spot kick was sloppy and Chamberlain remained the one with the safe hands; the two still deadlocked.
England afforded another half-chance with five minutes left on the clock but no one in white was able to make a really connection and fire anything positive at Hedvig Lindahl.
The match drew on and despite all the pressure from both and the half-chances seen by both home and away, there was nothing to separate the two on the scoreboard, Chamberlain the hero for the visiting Lionesses.