England captain Steph Houghton scored twice as the Lionesses humbled Bosnia & Herzegovina to rack up their second successive victory in World Cup Qualifying, reports Dan Barnes for TheFA.com.
Mo Marley’s side, who opened up their campaign to reach France 2019 with a 6-0 triumph over Russia in September, saw off Bosnia at the Banks’s Stadium in Walsall to maintain their perfect start to UEFA Group 1.
Roared on by a sell-out crowd in the West Midlands, the Lionesses took the contest by the scruff of the neck from the off, Marley’s troops pouring forward as they laid siege to the Bosnia area.
The visitors held firm for all of 19 minutes – Danielle Carter collected a short corner, wriggled free and lofted a cross into the box that was punched away by Bosnian keeper Almina Hodzic.
However, the visiting goalie’s attempted clearance fell straight into the path of Houghton and the Manchester City defender was able to nod into the empty net to get the Lionesses up and running.
It remained one-way traffic from there on out but England found themselves frustrated time and again by the razor-sharp reactions of Hodzic.
The Bosnian stopper did fail to deal with a Nikita Parris cross in the 26th minute but sprang back up superbly to deny the incoming Fran Kirby – the Chelsea star was also denied by Hodzic moments later.
In the 38th minute, Toni Duggan shaved the outside of the side-netting with a powerful drive and in first-half added time, Hodzic came to the fore once again.
With the ball at her feet on the edge of the area, Kirby produced an audacious chip destined for the top corner of the net but Hodzic launched herself into the air to knock the effort over the bar, ensuring her side trailed by just a single goal at the break.
Any hopes they had of pegging back the Lionesses were quickly dashed just 42 seconds after the break as England doubled their lead, Duggan cutting inside and lofting a right-footed cross towards the far post where Parris gleefully nodded home.
With 53 minutes on the clock, Carter was clipped on the edge of the box and Houghton took responsibility.
Hodzic was left as little more than a spectator as the Lionesses skipper thumped the free-kick into the bottom corner to make it 3-0, with the Bosnian goalkeeper unable to travel across goal to do anything about Houghton’s strike. It was the first time the skipper had registered an international brace.
As England looked to press the issue home, Carter flashed a whistling shot across the face of goal while, just before the hour mark, Bosnia’s Milena Nikolic had the ball in the net after beating Siobhan Chamberlain to the ball but her effort was chalked off for an earlier foul on Millie Bright.
The Lionesses were denied a penalty in the 65th minute by referee Ewa Augustyn when Carter was tugged back in the area by Amira Spahic while Kirby had a goalbound effort deflected away by Melisa Hasanbegovic after Duggan’s initial strike had been saved by Hodzic.
With eight minutes to go, Carter was hauled to the floor as she attempted to control a chipped pass from Jordan Nobbs. This time the official pointed to the spot, allowing Kirby to send the goalkeeper the wrong way from 12 yards.
England (4-3-3): 1 Siobhan Chamberlain (Liverpool); 2 Lucy Bronze (Lyon), 5 Steph Houghton (capt; Manchester City), 6 Millie Bright (Chelsea), 3 Alex Greenwood (Liverpool); 4 Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal), 10 Fran Kirby (Chelsea), 8 Isobel Christiansen (Manchester City); 7 Nikita Parris (Manchester City), 9 Danielle Carter (Arsenal), 11 Toni Duggan (Barcelona).
Substitutes: 17 Jo Potter (Reading) for Christiansen 73, 18 Melissa Lawley (Manchester City) for Parris 81.
Substitutes not used: 13 Karen Bardsley (Manchester City), 12 Demi Stokes (Manchester City), 14 Jodie Taylor (Arsenal), 16 Karen Carney (Chelsea).
Bosnia & Herzegovina: 1 Almina Hodzic, 3 Antonela Redeljic, 5 Melisa Hasanbegovic, 4 Amira Spahic (capt), 11 Lidija Kulis, 17 Amela Krso, 10 Alisa Spahic, 6 Marija Aleksic, 14 Dajana Spasojevic, 9 Milena Nikolic, 7 Andela Seslija.
Substitutes: 2 Valentina Sakotic for Seslija 45, 8 Aida Hadzic for Alisa Spahic 77, 20 Nikola Milovic for Amira Spahic 90
Substitutes not used: 12 Arnela Sabanovic, 13 Amna Lihovic, 15 Marina Lukic, 16 Alma Kameric