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Frustrated England struggle to narrow win over Portugal thanks to goalkeeping howler

Portugal 0 England 1 

Phil Neville had this week reiterated that he would not push the panic button on his philosophy. England were here in Portugal to play possession football, no results would change that, not even a five-game winless run. “I’m not afraid to lose,” he said. 

They did not lose, they kept their first clean sheet since the World Cup quarter-final and they had over 70 per cent of the ball. But this performance, in an unconvincing 1-0 win over a team ranked 26 places below them in the world, Neville’s narrative is starting to feel worn-out. 

That it took until only 65 minutes for him to resort to risking Jordan Nobbs – a player only just back from an 11-month injury who he had said at the weekend he would not use here – was an indication of the desperate times the Lionesses are living in. And Beth Mead’s goal midway through the second half only marginally changed that. But Neville remained adamant his team were performing at the top level.

“We never worried about the five games without a victory,” he said. 

“I wear my heart on my sleeve and I think over the past two games we played brilliant football.”

Patricia Morais dropped the ball straight into Mead’s path  Credit: Getty images

The outward calm England have maintained during their five-match winless streak began to disappear though as on-field frustrations began to show.

Alex Greenwood was pleading with Mead to help her on the left flank as she was often outpaced by her impressive Lyon team-mate Jessica Silva and former Chelsea winger Ana Borges.

England were tense, they needed a result and were worried about mistakes. They were improved in defence, but had no answers in attack for the first hour.

Portugal’s packed midfield and defence clipped at the boots of Keira Walsh, Lucy Staniforth and Manchester City’s Matilde Fidalgo at right-back was stuck to Mead like glue.

When veteran Jodie Taylor and Nobbs came on after the hour it showed a stab from Neville at banking on experience. They turned out to be inspired choices, relieving Lucy Bronze of the midfield marathon she had been running all match as she retreated to her usual spot at right-back.

Both substitutes almost scored immediately. Taylor’s on-target shot was saved by Patricia Morais in goal, while Nobbs picked up the rebound in the box only to be blocked. 

But the longed-for goal would eventually drop for the Lionesses, as Mead picked up a loose ball in the box courtesy of a howler in goal from Morais and thumped it home from close-range to finally relieve the England camp.

Team details

England Roebuck; Daly (Nobbs, 65), Houghton, Williamson, Greenwood; Bronze, Walsh; Parris, Staniforth (Lawley, 80), Mead (Hemp, 85); England (Taylor, 65).
Subs Telford, Earps, Mannion, Bonner, Kelly.

Portugal Morais; M Mendes, Rebelo, Costa, Fidalgo; Borges, D Silva, F Pinto, Marques; C Mendes (Norton, 64), J Silva (M Gomes, 83).
Subs Pereira, Neto, T Pinto, Capeta, D Gomes, Faria, Maia, Costa, Marchao. Bookings F Pinto, D Silva.

Referee Lucia Abruzzese (Italy)

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