July 1, 2011

England 2, New Zealand 1

England came from behind to edge a game New Zealand team by a 2-1 margin. It was the first come-from-behind victory of the 2011 World Cup and it put England in control of their own destiny as far as advancing to the quarterfinals. Meanwhile, it erased any possibility of New Zealand making the quarters.

England got the first good chance of the match in the 12th minute. Ellen White stole the ball from Rebecca Smith and dribbled toward the goal, but Abby Erceg was able to block White's shot. A minute later, a 30-yard effort from Fara Williams was saved by Bindon.

But it was New Zealand that would draw first blood in the 18th minute. Ali Riley sent the ball into space deep on the left side and Amber Hearn was the first to track it down. Hearn crossed the ball from the left side, just shy of the end line. Sarah Gregorius was able to work her way between Casey Stoney and Rachel Unitt to somehow get her foot on the ball and put it by English keeper Karen Bardsley. A stunned English team had watched the Ferns take a one nil lead.

New Zealand probably should have been up by two in the 38th minute. A beautiful was sent through to Gregorius, who had a four yard lead on the nearest defender. Unfortunately, she made a bit of a mess of the dribble, allowing Rachel Unitt to catch up to her and defend her just before she could release a good shot.

In the 44th minute, England threatened but Kelly Smith's shot was deflected by a defender and Bindon easily covered on the play.

New Zealand came close again to start the 2nd half. Gregorius crossed the ball from the right side to Hearn whose header went mere inches over the bar and landed on top of the netting. England had to feel quite lucky not to be down by two or three goals at that point.

England starting to gain mementum after the 60th minute. Finally, Alex Scott's cross from the right side was perfect for Jill Scott, who easily skied over the defender and headed the ball into the upper left corner of the net. England had drawn even and New Zealand had to be kicking themselves for the missed opportunities.

England continued to pressure in next few minutes. Another Alex Scott cross led to another Jill Scott header. Ferns' goalkeeper Jenny Bindon made the saved, bobbled the ball a bit, but was able to secure it just ahead of Ellen White who was making a run at the goal. A minute later, a Kelly Smith shot was deflected just wide right of the goal.

New Zealand regained the momentum as the game moved into the final 20 minutes. Ali Riley's cross was just behind Rosie White, who had perhaps gotten in too close to the goal. White couldn't quite get her foot solidly on the ball and another chance slipped away.

England seemed determined to get the winner in the 80th minute, but Bindon made a diving save on Ellen White's shot from 12 yards to keep her team even.

However, in the 81st minute, Rachel Unitt sent a long ball into the box. Bindon came out to attempt to punch the ball away, but didn't get enough to clear it out of trouble. The ball came to Jill Scott, who touched the ball across to second half substitute Jess Clarke and she made no mistake on her finish. For the first time of the day, England held the advantage.

Bindon kept her team close with a fantastic kick save on Fara Williams in the 88th minute. Williams' low shot from 18 yards out appeared to be headed just inside the right post, but Bindon kicked her left leg out just in time to deflect the ball away from the net. England was able to waste away the final minutes and hold on for the victory.

For England, it was a great comeback win when it looked like they were in deep trouble in this match. They now have the inside track on the second position out of Group B and could win it if they are victorious over Japan on Tuesday.

Sadly, New Zealand has been eliminated from any chance of the quarterfinals. They have put forth two solid efforts against very good teams and came away empty. They can somewhat play the role of spoiler against Mexico, who still is in the running for the quarterfinals.