England Shocked by New Zealand in Friendly Ahead of 2019 FIFA Women's World CupJune 1, 2019
New Zealand dented England's title hopes ahead of the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup by beating the Lionesses 1-0 on Saturday in their last friendly match ahead of the summer tournament.
England peppered the New Zealand goal in the first half but fell behind to a Sarah Gregorius opener early in the second period, making the most of Carly Telford's goalkeeping blunder.
Phil Neville's England side are one of the teams expected to compete for the top prize in France this summer, but defeat to the Ferns means they've now won only four of their last eight games.
England's first half at the Amex Stadium was a familiar case of Neville's side demonstrating plenty of ingenuity but little in terms of end product.
It took his team 45 minutes to find their breakthrough against Denmark in their previous game, and it was only in April that Canada held England at bay altogether in a 1-0 win for the North Americans.
England beat Spain and Denmark in the build-up to Saturday's duel, and journalist Richard Scott praised the turnout on the south coast:
Neville will have been frustrated to see so many chances go astray for his side, particularly in what was expected to be a morale-boosting fixture before their World Cup bow.
Telford was called into action before the break and pulled off a marvellous save to deny Betsy Hassett what looked a certain goal.
There was also a scare for New Zealand at the climax of the first half after forward Rosie White went to ground following a clash of heads with England defender Lucy Bronze, though she was fit to continue.
It took New Zealand less than five minutes to find the opener after play resumed. Hassett slammed a shot straight at Telford, only for the England stopper to spill the ball directly into the path of the onrushing Gregorius.
Gregorius came into the match as New Zealand's highest active scorer with 33 goals. Her latest international goal hoisted her up to joint-second alongside Wendy Sharpe as her country's second-top scorer of all time.
That being said, women's football writer Mario Rustan highlighted her level of competition and hinted at the gulf between that level and most of England's players:
Telford's blunder in goal will have only reinforced to many England fans that Manchester City No. 1 Karen Bardsley is deserving of the starting jersey even at 34 years of age.
Veteran Karen Carney came on in place of Toni Duggan not long after the opener and helped position England more frequently in the opposition half, though their lack of end product continued to frustrate.
Jodie Taylor looped a wonderful ball over the top, but Carney, 31, hit her effort straight at opposition goalkeeper Erin Nayler in what was one of their better chances.
Carney's impact in England's attack was immediate ahead of what's likely to be her last involvement at a World Cup:
The attacks grew more desperate as it ticked closer to full time with Tom Sermanni's side still leading, and New Zealand even fashioned some of the better pressure in the closing stages.
It's a bad time for England to lose the free-scoring touch they looked to have developed through parts of 2018, and their World Cup aspirations could suffer unless they can rediscover the route to goal.
England get their Group D campaign up and running against Scotland on Sunday, June 9. Group E hopefuls New Zealand don't begin their World Cup until Tuesday, June 11, when they'll face the Netherlands.
This article will be updated to provide more information soon.
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