England’s Steph Houghton and Nikita Parris score to earn draw with USA

Englands Steph Houghton and Nikita Parris scored high-quality goals in a 2-2 draw with the World Cup holders USA in Nashville

“A chess match first half and a boxing match second,” said England manager Phil Neville of “an unbelievable advert for women’s football”.

A stunning Steph Houghton free-kick had cancelled out an equally impressive Megan Rapinoe strike before Nikita Parris gave England a 2-1 lead against the USA in their SheBelieves Cup match in Nashville. Tobin Heath equalised for the world champions butthis was an impressive performance by Neville’s side. While the visitors had opened the tournament with a come-from-behind defeat of Brazil, it was a second successive 2-2 draw for the hosts.

“Both coaches will probably admit that the result isn’t the most important thing but we’ve put on an advert for women’s football that was probably as good as I’ve seen,” said Neville.

“I think the first half set up the second, they found it a little bit difficult with our system, but I was a little bit disappointed with our passing, they caused us problems with their diagonals and second phase attack. Either team could have won and my players are slightly disappointed that they didn’t.”

In front of 22,125 fans, the hosts presented themselves before the whistle with their backs to the cameras, displaying the names of inspirational women on the back of their shirts insteadof their own.

If England needed motivation for a brighter start, aftertheir lacklustre first half against Brazil, facing the titans of women’s football in the home of the Titans wouldprovide it. And within two minutes they were feeling the heat. A Rapinoe corner caused chaos in England’s penalty box before Abby McManus was able to power a clearance off the line.

With the USA pressing high, the Lionesses were reeling on the back foot, but a succession of corners for the host side came to little and slowly Neville’s team began to relax.

On the half-hour mark, Heath escaped through, racing into the box only for Houghton to catch up and clip the ball from the American’s feet.

With neither keeper particularly troubled, and with some wayward passing among the England front line, it took a moment of brilliance to break the deadlock. Abby Dahlkemper released Kelley O’Hara, who swung the ball into the box. It was knocked down by an England shirt before Rapinoe collected and struck it cleanly from just outside the area to put thehosts ahead.

The advantage did not last long. Adrianna Franch, making her debut in the USA goal, mistakenly picked up a back pass, thereby conceding an indirect free-kick inside the penalty area. The ball was laid off and Houghton – “world class” according to Neville – curled the ball beautifully around the wall past Franch’s left hand and into the bottom corner.

Tobin Heath scores the USA’s second, beating a group of England defenders to equalise. Photograph: Christopher Hanewinckel/USA Today Sports

Houghton, fresh from a Continental Cup final win with Manchester City, scored a similar opener from a set piece in last month’s 3-0 FA Cup victory over Tottenham.

England picked up where they had left off from the beginning of the second half, and Fran Kirby flicked the ball to Parris who slid the ball beyond Franch and into the corner to give the visitors a 52nd minute lead.

Jill Ellis, the USA coach, then chose to switch things around, with Mallory Pugh making way for Christen Press and Becky Sauerbrunn coming in for O’Hara. Still, England came again. Dahlkemper, caught napping, was robbed by Ellen White but the forward’s attempt went wide.

With 67 minutes on the clock, Rapinoe, wearing the name of the poet and activist Audre Lorde, was once again the spark for the USA. Her corner caused a familiar scramble and this time Heath was there to fire into the net. Both sides had chances to claimvictory but England will be the happier. A draw made it winner takes all against Japan in Tampa in this competition. There, England’s World Cup credentials will be well and truly in the spotlight against opponents they will face in Group D in France.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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