Second-half goals by Toni Duggan and Jodie Taylor helped England defeat Bosnia 2-0 in Zenica to go top of their FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifying group, with 13 points from five matches.
Duggan steered home Melissa Lawley’s excellent deep cross in the 56th minute to put the Lionesses in front after another frustrating first half where the opposition sat deep and tried to soak up pressure.
Taylor leapt from the bench to convert a penalty, awarded for a foul on substitute Beth Mead, making it 2-0 in added time to seal the win and give Phil Neville’s side the three points their dominance deserved.
It wasn’t all good news for England, however, as left full-back Alex Greenwood was controversially sent off after picking up two yellow cards (one for dissent another for diving), while Bosnia also had Amira Spahic harshly dismissed for the same reason shortly after (her cards came for time-wasting and then a foul on Mead).
There were five changes in the team from Friday night’s 0-0 draw against Wales, with Greenwood and Isobel Christiansen replacing Demi Stokes and Fran Kirby respectively after the latter pair withdrew from the squad at the weekend. Meanwhile Jade Moore, Lawley and Ellen White came in for Keira Walsh, Nikita Parris and Taylor.
Having faced Bosnia three times inside the last three years, England knew exactly what they would be up against in Zenica; 11 players packing their own half, sitting deeply behind the ball. Just as they did on Friday, England totally dominated possession but again struggled to find a way through. But they remained patient and eventually got their just rewards.
Arguably the best chance of the first half saw Lucy Bronze set up Christiansen in the box but the midfielder could only send the ball over the crossbar.
Moore fired a 30-yard effort on 30 minutes but Envera Hasanbegovic was equal to it, saving brilliantly to keep the ball out of the top corner.
Greenwood was incredulous and devastated when given her marching orders by the Greek referee but less than ten minutes later the Lionesses were ahead. Mel Lawley sent in the cross and Duggan, at the back post, judged the flight of the ball better than her defender and stretched to steer the ball home, to the relief of all in the England camp.
Spahic was dismissed soon after and then Duggan almost added to her tally with a thunderous left-footer that came off the angle of post and bar.
Steph Houghton centred into the six-yard box where White met the ball with a volley that Hasanbegovic pushed out for a corner, then White headed over from a Bronze cross, but the win was secured when Mead was fouled inside the box and Taylor calmly hit home the resulting penalty.
It was job done and without Carly Telford having to make a save.
Bosnia (5-4-1): 1 Envera Hasanbegovic; 4 Amira Spahic, 5 Melisa Hasanbegovic, 6 Marija Aleksic, 3 Antonela Radeljic, 11 Lidija Kulis; 2 Valentina Sakotic, 8 Aida Hadzic, 10 Alisa Spahic, 17 Amela Krso; 9 Milena Nikolic (capt).
Substitutes: 20 Selma Kapetanovic for Krso 66, 15 Marina Lukic for Spahic 74, 7 Merjema Medic for Spahic 90+2.
Substitutes not used: 12 Jelena Gvozderac, 13 Zerina Piskic, 14 Dragica Denda, 18 Amna Lihovic,.
Bookings: Hadzic 12, Spahic 39, 59
Red cards: Spahic (second yellow)
Head coach: Samira Huren
England (4-3-3): 1 Carly Telford (Chelsea); 2 Lucy Bronze (Lyon), 5 Steph Houghton (capt; Manchester City), 6 Abbie McManus (Manchester City), 3 Alex Greenwood (Liverpool); 8 Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal), 4 Jade Moore (Reading), 10 Isobel Christiansen (Manchester City); 7 Melissa Lawley (Manchester City), 9 Ellen White (Birmingham City), 11 Toni Duggan (Barcelona).
Substitutes: 16 Beth Mead (Arsenal) for Lawley 57, 12 Rachel Daly (Houston Dash) for Christiansen 80, 18 Jodie Taylor (Seattle Reign) for Duggan 87.
Substitutes not used: 13 Karen Bardsley (Manchester City), 14 Gabrielle George (Everton), 15 Fara Williams (Reading), 17 Nikita Parris (Manchester City).
Goals: Duggan 56, Taylor (pen) 90+2.
Bookings: Greenwood 43, 47
Red card: Greenwood (second yellow)
Head coach: Phil Neville
Referee: Andromachi Tsiofliki (GRE)