England Women draw a blank as Phil Neville fails to find formula to beat Wales
New boss Neville saw Wales repeatedly frustrate his Lionesses with resolute defending.
England Women missed the chance to top their World Cup qualifying group as they were held to a frustrating goalless draw by Wales in Southampton.
The toothless Lionesses failed to crack Wales’ ultra-defensive set-up, labouring to a galling 0-0 draw in new boss Phil Neville’s first home game at the helm.
England dominated territory and possession from first to last, but still failed to conjure any genuine clear-cut goalscoring chances.
Wales boss Jayne Ludlow’s 4-5-1 formation and regimented approach thwarted England at every turn – leaving the visitors celebrating a hard-fought point that keeps them top of Group A.
Neville’s England might now be ranked second in the world, but they could do nothing to break down a side rated 34th in the global reckoning.
Wales’ stifling tactics worked wonders for the visitors, but England fell far too easily into those well-laid traps.
Neville’s team failed to force any daylight between Wales’ blanket double-lined defensive coverage, duly paying the price by failing to claim victory.
England poor 1st half but threw everything at Wales in last 30'. Needed more quality into box & urgency (crosses would've tested O'Sullivan) & best chances fell to McManus towards end but can't fault effort/attitude. Bosnia will 'park' a bigger bus but 3 pts on Tues & all good.👍— Jen O'Neill (@SheKicksdotnet) April 6, 2018
Rachel Rowe fired a wild volley for Wales in a rare first-half foray.
But despite England’s total dominance in territory and possession, the visitors had the first clear chance of the half.
Natasha Harding’s low drive cannoned off Steph Houghton, with Lucy Bronze clearing on the line.
Referee Pernilla Larsson rejected Wales’ claims the ball had crossed the line, leaving the travelling players frustrated to be denied the goal.
Jordan Nobbs blasted a long-distance effort against the crossbar in England’s only true threatening moment of the first half, with goalkeeper Laura O’Sullivan just managing to tip the strike to safety.
Fran Kirby’s fine technical volley was well blocked as the pattern of England pressing without reward resumed after the break.
Melissa Lawley and Ellen White injected much-needed impetus off the bench, as the hosts realised they had to crank up the pressure to break the deadlock.
First White only just failed to reach Lawley’s low cross, then the Birmingham striker fired off a smarting half-volley, only for O’Sullivan to save with precious little fuss.
England kept pressing, but kept on failing to provide enough control or acumen to steal the victory.
Abbie McManus poked wide from a late corner, before Kirby saw a long-range effort tipped over by O’Sullivan.