England get helping hand from VAR to edge out Scotland
Nikita Parris set England on their way with a controversial penalty.
England made a winning start to their Women’s World Cup campaign as they saw off debutants Scotland 2-1 in Nice.
In front of a crowd of 13,188 at the Allianz Riviera, Nikita Parris put the Lionesses ahead with a 14th-minute penalty awarded for handball via VAR and Ellen White’s curled finish made it 2-0 in the 40th minute.
Having looked very much in control, Phil Neville’s team, who were denied by some fine Lee Alexander saves and had two efforts chalked off for offside, then endured a nervy finale after Claire Emslie pulled a goal back with 11 minutes remaining.
While Scotland could not save themselves from defeat, they will take heart from their efforts in their first Women’s World Cup finals appearance, two years after being thrashed 6-0 by England in the last meeting, at Euro 2017.
The teams next play on Friday when Shelley Kerr’s Scotland face Japan in Rennes before England take on Argentina in Le Havre.
With Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon among those watching from the stands, Kerr’s side made a fairly bright start to the contest, with Caroline Weir having an early shot blocked, before they fell behind just prior to the quarter-hour mark as England benefited from VAR.
Fran Kirby’s cross struck Nicola Docherty on the arm and, after Czech referee Jana Adamkova watched footage back and pointed to the spot, Parris fired in from 12 yards.
Kirby sent a low shot just wide five minutes later and, as England continued to press, Alexander made an excellent block with her leg to keep out a strike from White, who then beat the goalkeeper with a header, only to see the flag up for offside.
Scotland responded with an Emslie strike that was comfortably caught by Karen Bardsley, before Alexander saved well with her leg again, denying Beth Mead, and dealt with a White effort.
England then doubled their advantage as Kirby got her boot to a ball from Alex Greenwood before Scotland captain Rachel Corsie, and the touch teed up White to beat Alexander.
Erin Cuthbert went close to pulling a goal back as she struck narrowly wide.
England had the ball in Scotland’s net again early in the second half, but Mead’s strike was another effort disallowed for offside.
After Emslie saw an attempt gathered by Bardsley, Alexander pulled off another great stop as she pushed away White’s volley.
Scotland then reduced the deficit when England captain Steph Houghton gave the ball away and Lisa Evans set up Emslie’s strike.
It made for a tense conclusion, but England were able to hang on for three points in Group D.