England 2 Japan 0: Ellen White on the double as Lionesses go in last 16 as Group D winners




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IT was all White on the night for Phil Neville and his Lionesses.

All Ellen White, that is, with the deadly double that made it three out of three and avenged that semi-final heartbreak in Canada four years ago.

Ellen White bags a double as England beat Japan
Reuters
Ellen White scores against Japan
Getty – Contributor

White repeated her “goggles” goal celebration, in honour of French ace Anthony Modeste.

But the striker had NOTHING to be modest about after the cool and calm way she converted her two chances to ensure top spot in Group D and a 100 per cent record.

White’s second, six minute from time, was equally convincing, low, left-footed and always destined for the bottom corner.

And as England marched on to Valenciennes on Sunday, electrified by a thrilling display of trickery and pace on the right from Rachel Daly, Neville will be growing increasingly confident.

In truth, this should have been an absolute thumping, and surely would have been without the superb performance of Japanese keeper Ayaka Yamashita.

Yamashita made a series of terrific stops, throwing herself left and right to prevent England handing out the “punishing” the manager had demanded.

Yet a side showing eight changes emerged from a tricky opening to play with verve and gusto, with Daly, on her first tournament start, standing out.

Despite those changes, Neville kept his key trio, skipper Steph Houghton, Lucy Bronze and midfield enforcer Jill Scott.

Returning keeper Karen Bardsley and fit-again striker Toni Duggan had also started in against Japan in 2015.

Initially, the chopping and changing appeared to be having an adverse effect.

England struggled to impose themselves on the game, stumbling into Japan’s deep-lying defensive traps.

Indeed, it needed a flying stop by Bardsley, diving high to her right to tip Kumi Yokoyama’s 30-yard free-kick onto the bar and behind, to keep England on terms inside the first 10 minutes.

It was a super save, with the ball dipping late and heading for the postage stamp in Bardsley’s top corner.

And its value was emphasised when England took the lead from their first proper attack.

The excellent Georgia Stanway span off her marker to poke in behind the defensive line, White was alert to the opening, scooping left-footed past the keeper and watching as the ball trickled into the net for her second goal in two starts here.

Suddenly, England were transformed – and terrific, playing with real intensity.

Scott stung Yamashita’s fingers with a long-ranger that was heading for the inside of the post.

And from the resulting, and clever, short corner, Stanway unleashed one from the edge of the box that curved wickedly away from the keeper, who made a fine reaction save with her left fist.

Neville’s main concern would have been Keira Walsh, poor in possession and clumsy out of it, enduring a real test of her character.

Walsh did make one good contribution, a glorious ball over the top which allowed the impressive Daly to out-muscle her marker and let fly, Yamashita again making a key save.

By now, Japan’s early threat had been quelled, despite a nervy display by Millie Bright, although Duggan looked like a player two weeks behind the rest after her troubling thigh problem.

On the other flank, though, Daly was having a blast as she teased and tormented, with Stanway’s goalbound effort deflected behind at the start of the second period.

In complete control, England just lacked the second goal.

They were so close to it from a fabulous passing move down the right.


Bronze delivered with pace and precision and while Duggan was fractionally in front of the ball, she still made a decent connection with her volley, only for Yamashita to foil England once again.

Houghton showed her quality as she timed her tackle on substitute Yuika Sugasawa perfectly after a Bright blunder had opened the way to goal.

And when substitute Karen Carney teased down the inside left channel six minutes from time, White’s finish was the perfect end to a great night.

 

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