England’s Steph Houghton and Nikita Parris score to earn draw with USA

A stunning Steph Houghton free-kick cancelled out an equally impressive Megan Rapinoe strike before Nikita Parris gave England a 2-1 lead against the USA in their SheBelieves Cup match in Nashville. Tobin Heath equalised for the world champions but it was an impressive performance by Phil Neville’s side. While the visitors had opened the tournament with a come-from-behind victory, it was a second successive 2-2 draw for the hosts.

In front of 22,125 fans, the hosts presented themselves before the whistle with their backs to the camera, displaying the names of inspirational women on the back of their shirts in the place of their own.

If England needed motivation for a brighter start, after a lacklustre first half against Brazil, facing the titans of women’s football in the home of the Titans would be it. Except within two minutes they were feeling the heat. A Rapinoe corner caused chaos in the box before Abby McManus was able to power a clearance off the line.

With the US pressing high, the Lionesses were on the back foot, but a succession of corners for the host side came to nothing and slowly Neville’s team began to relax. With six minutes gone, Parris got her first sight of space, springing the offside and keeping the ball in before whipping in a teasing cross but there was no one there to meet it.

Straight up the other end, though, Houghton had to throw herself in front of a Heath effort and then acrobatically pushed away Rapinoe’s follow-up for a corner.

Lucy Bronze, shifted from right back into midfield as she was at half-time against Brazil, added some fight and drive to the injury-hit England midfield, with Rachel Daly filling in at the back. Alongside a composed Keira Walsh, it looked a convincing set-up.

On the half-hour mark, Heath was through, racing into the box only for Houghton to catch her up and clip the ball from her feet with her heel.

With neither keeper particularly troubled, and with wayward passing by the England front line, it was a moment of brilliance that broke the deadlock. Abby Dahlkemper released Kelley O’Hara, who swung the ball into the box. It was knocked down by an England shirt but Rapinoe collected and struck it cleanly from just outside the area to put the US ahead.

The lead did not last long. Adrianna Franch, making her debut in the USA goal, picked up a back pass, thereby conceding an indirect free-kick inside the penalty area. The ball was laid off and Houghton, the England captain, curled the ball around the wall, beautifully into the bottom corner past Franch’s left hand.

Houghton, fresh from a Continental Cup final win with Manchester City, also scored the opener from a set piece in the Blues’ 3-1 victory over Tottenham to secure a place in the FA Cup quarter-finals.

A victory would have put the Lionesses in the driving seat of the not-so-friendly competition, with their final game against Japan in Tampa still to play, so England’s World Cup credentials were well and truly on show. Fran Kirby flicked the ball to Parris who slid it beyond Franch and into the corner to give the visitors the lead.

Jill Ellis, the USA coach, then switched things around, Mallory Pugh making way for Christen Press and Becky Sauerbrunn coming in for O’Hara. Except England came again. Dahlkemper, caught napping, was robbed by Ellen White but she put her attempt wide.

With 67 minutes on the clock Rapinoe, wearing the name of the poet and activist Audre Lorde, was once again the spark for the US. Her corner caused an increasingly familiar scramble but this time Heath was there to fire into the net. Both sides had chances to claim the win but England will be the happier.


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