England were left to rue missed chances as they slipped to a 3-1 friendly defeat to a weakened France at the Stade Michel d’Ornano in Caen.
France, without several leading players due to a Covid outbreak in their camp, led 1-0 at half-time through Sandy Baltimore’s superb finish and extended their lead via substitute Viviane Asseyi’s second-half penalty.
England hauled themselves back into it via Fran Kirby’s spot-kick and struck the woodwork through Keira Walsh before Marie-Antoinette Katoto added France’s decisive third goal.
France, who extended their unbeaten run to 16 matches, conceded their first goal in over 13 and a half hours and England will be disappointed they did not add to their tally.
Beth Mead’s effort in the 31st minute was ruled out for offside and the unmarked Nikita Parris headed a golden chance wide from Walsh’s pin-point cross on the stroke of half-time.
One minute after Mead thought she had given England the lead, France swept up field and Baltimore finished off a slick counter by arrowing her finish into the top corner.
Elisa De Almeida pulled the game’s first real chance wide in the seventh minute before England responded through Arsenal forward Mead, whose well-struck shot was held by France goalkeeper Pauline Peyraud-Magnin.
England goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck had earlier denied Baltimore and Valerie Gauvin, while Peyraud-Magnin kept out Parris’ low effort in the bottom corner.
Roebuck produced two more crucial saves just after the hour-mark to keep out shots from Katoto and Asseyi.
Asseyi’s fierce drive was tipped onto the crossbar and when Rachel Daly collided with De Almeida as both players went for the rebound, Swedish referee Sara Persson consulted with her assistant and pointed to the spot.
Asseyi, a replacement for Gauvin two minutes earlier, coolly converted her penalty into the bottom corner.
In memory of HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, who died today at the age of 99.— Lionesses (@Lionesses) April 9, 2021
Lauren Hemp’s introduction for Mead in the 64th minute gave England a cutting edge and she won a penalty when brought down by Marion Torrent, which was despatched by Kirby into the bottom corner 14 minutes later.
Manchester City forward Hemp then teed up Walsh and the latter’s shot hit Peyraud-Magnin’s left-hand post before France broke away for their third goal.
Kadidiatou Diani raced clear down the right and her low cross was steered home by Katoto.
It was the first time England, wearing black armbands as a mark of respect following the death of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, had faced a team in the world’s top 10 since March 2020 and they were made to pay for some wayward finishing.
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