England manager Phil Neville urged his players to “keep being ruthless” after their levels dropped in the second half of a 2-1 win over Scotland.
The Lionesses bossed things in the first half of their Women’s World Cup opener in Nice, during which Nikita Parris scored a 14th-minute penalty and Ellen White added a curled finish shortly before the break.
But things were different after the interval and Claire Emslie’s strike with 11 minutes of normal time remaining made for a tense conclusion.
Neville said in his post-match press conference: “We played really well in the first half.
“We played really adventurous, really high. We could have had more goals, and nearly had a third one just after half-time.
“And then I suppose the disappointment leaving the game – and it’s the standards that we have set – is that in the second half we need to keep the ball better.
“So we have to keep driving those standards, we have to keep being ruthless. But it’s good to get the first game out of the way.
“When I see them play like they did for the first 60 minutes, we’re a good team that will progress in the competition. If we drop our levels, then it makes life tougher.”
Emslie scored after England captain Steph Houghton gave the ball away, and Neville said: “She gave it away trying to do the right thing. She was trying to make the pass that we practice, so I’m never going to criticise my players for that.”
The penalty netted by Parris was awarded for handball via VAR, with referee Jana Adamkova pointing to the spot after watching back footage of Fran Kirby’s cross striking Nicola Docherty on the arm.
Neville said: “We’ve been given two talks by referees, and the two talks we’ve had, one by a FIFA official and one by an official in England, both said that was going to be a penalty.
Off the mark with a win! Tough start to the campaign & it isn’t going to get easier but we are confident in our ability. Can't wait for the next game 😆 Thanks for all the messages & continued support ♥ #Lionessespic.twitter.com/HHidwEoziC— Nikita Parris (@lilkeets) June 9, 2019
“I didn’t look at it – I just trusted that the minute the referee came over, I think it’s going to be penalty.”
Neville said he thought Parris showed “world-class” composure.
And he added of the 25-year-old, who has left Manchester City and joined Lyon this summer: “We have seen a player develop from being a really, really good WSL (Women’s Super League) player, to now signing for the the best team in the world in Lyon, making impacts in the big games on the big occasions.
“I think what you have seen today is a little snippet of what a special player we have got.”
Giving her take on what was Scotland’s debut appearance at a Women’s World Cup finals, boss Shelley Kerr said of the penalty decision: “By the letter of the law it’s a penalty, but I thought it was harsh.
“The rules are the rules, we can’t change that, but I definitely thought the penalty was harsh.”
She added: “First half we were disappointed in terms of our performance. I think we could have played much better, but a lot of credit has to go to England.
“I thought the second half we were better organised and we finished the game extremely well. I thought the second-half performance was more like us and I was pleased with that, there was lots of positives.”
#SWNT did us proud tonight. Great second half performance in particular. I know they will be disappointed not to take a point but so many positives to build on for the next match. Well done and good luck on Friday. #OurGirlsOurGame@FIFAWWC#SCOhttps://t.co/guzgZfFokY— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) June 9, 2019
The attendance for the match at the Allianz Stadium – where Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was among the crowd – was 13,188.
It was put to Neville that the figure was lower than some had expected, and he said: “I thought there was a sea of red and white throughout the stadium.
“Yes, there were probably more empty seats than what we thought.
“But I thought it was a brilliant support by us and I do think when we get to Le Havre (for their next group game, against Argentina) there will be more, and when we come back down to Nice (to play Japan) there will be even more supporters.”
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