England kicked off their 2019 World Cup campaign with a narrow victory over neighbours Scotland to give them a vital three points in their first group D fixture.
In what was expected to be an end-to-end game, both teams showed their quality going forward in what proved to be an entertaining affair. It was the Lionesses though who emerged victorious, courtesy of their clinical finishing in the first half.
England had a chance to make a breakthrough when VAR ruled that Fran Kirby's cross struck the arm of Nicola Docherty, despite the muted appeals from the Lionesses. Nevertheless, Nikita Parris stepped up to take the spot kick and powered home to put England 1-0 up on 14 minutes.
Scotland's early momentum had dampened after the opener, and they looked as though they needed to regroup at half time. Before they could do that however, Ellen White doubled her side's advantage when she tucked it away when the ball fell to her on the edge of the box.
Scotland upped the ante for the second 45 minutes, as they looked to claw their way back into the game. They began testing England's stopper Karen Bardsley more often and eventually got their breakthrough on 79 minutes when Claire Emslie finished nicely to give the Tartan Army a lifeline.
Following the goal, England kept the ball very well and prevented their opponents from building too much momentum. The win leaves England top of group D before Japan and Argentina play each other on Monday evening.
Key Talking Point
The Lionesses came into this tournament with more expectation on their shoulders than ever before, but looked confident in the opening exchanges. England's start to the game was always going to be crucial, so the awarding of a penalty in the opening quarter of an hour was the perfect gift for Phil Neville's players.
This was expected to be a close encounter, so when White doubled England's lead just before half time, it gave the Lionesses some much-needed breathing space. It proved vital, as the Scots came out for the second half with more spring in their step, as they looked to make an unlikely fightback.
Phil Neville may be concerned with how his side failed to manage the game in the second half, which led to Emslie pulling a goal back. That said, England didn't seem phased by the goal and restricted Scotland very well from then on and saw the game out with relative comfort.
Starting XI: Bardsley (6); Bronze (8*), Houghton (6), Bright (6), Greenwood (7); Scott (6), Walsh (6), Kirby (6); Parris (7), White (7), Mead (6)
Substitutes: McManus (6), Carney (6), Stanway (6)
Lucy Bronze lived up to her reputation in the opening game, as she looked dominant on England's right-hand side. Linking up well with soon-to-be Olympique Lyonnais teammate Nikita Parris, Scotland struggled to handle the threat of the Lionesses threat from out wide.
Lucy Bronze and Nikita Parris are running this game for England from the right flank. Two of the best players in the world, they'll be teammates for Lyon next season too.— Oliver Holt (@OllieHolt22) June 9, 2019
Bronze's powerful running enabled her to regularly get half a yard on her opposing number and whip in a number of dangerous crosses. The Scots did pose a threat on the counter-attack, but Bronze did brilliantly to shut down the opposition whenever possible.
She played a more reserved role in the second half, as her side were clearly under instruction to protect their lead, but still performed admirably in defence, as her opponents grew in confidence. Bronze is expected to play a pivotal role in the Lionesses' World Cup hopes, and this is just the start she would have wanted.
Key Talking Point
Shelley Kerr will no doubt point to a harsh VAR penalty decision as the point at which Scotland lost control of this game, but she will no doubt be disappointed with her side's reaction in the face of this adversity. Just when it looked as though they had done enough to get to the break with just a one-goal deficit, Rachel Corsie's failed tackle wasn't enough to stop the ball falling to White to see them go two goals down.
A brighter second 45 minutes didn't result in many clear cut chances until Emslie got in behind the English defence to fire the ball into the roof of the net. Alas, this proved just to be a consolation, but Scotland will take confidence from the way they ended this game.
The defeat leaves them needing positive results against Japan and Argentina in their remaining group games, which is a big ask. Despite the strength of Japan, the Scots know that if they can continue the optimism and momentum they had at the end of this game, they will stand every chance of progressing to the second round.
Starting XI: Alexander (7); Howard (6), Corsie (6), Beattie (5), Docherty (5); Evans (6), Murray (6), Little (6), Weir (7*), Emslie (7); Cuthbert (6)
Substitutes: Smith (6)
Caroline Weir performed excellently for the Scots against England, as she tidied up in midfield, picked up the scraps and looked to start Scottish attacks. With the attacking talent at the disposal of their opponents, Scotland were always going to be under pressure, but Weir made sure she won every second ball to take the pressure off her defenders.
In the second half, Scotland needed to start chasing the game and Weir was just as crucial in this half as she was in the first. Whatever Kerr said at half time seemed to work, as the Scots grew into the match with the midfielder kickstarting a number of dangerous moves.
She was unlucky to end up on the losing side in what was a fierce battle over the course of the 90 minutes. She will need to dust herself off and pick herself up in time for Friday when Scotland take on Japan in a decisive group D game.
Next up for England, they face an unfancied Argentina side who they will expect to overcome with relative ease as they hope to finish the group in top spot.
Scotland, on the other hand, take on a strong Japan side on Friday, as the Tartan Army look to keep their World Cup hopes alive.