FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 Qualifiers UEFA Group Six
Brighton Community Stadium, Falmer
Match Rating: 4
It was a tough decision where to go today. On almost any other day, Eastbourne United's finely balanced FA Vase Semi-Final Second Leg match against Sholing would have won my vote. However, the opportunity to see the England women's team in action for the first time, in a competitive match at a local venue, was too alluring to resist, with still the possibility of catching the second half at Eastbourne following this game.
Only two stands were open for today's fixture, although I was able to sit in my fourth different stand, the East Stand, on my fourth visit to the Amex. As everywhere else in the stadium, it is difficult to fault the seating, which is cushioned, offers plenty of legroom and there is sufficient incline between rows for excellent views of the action. The programme was excellent value, with a glossy hardened cover and 52 pages with much of interest to read and more than enough stats to give a very good background to the fixture.
There's little doubt that England would be red hot favourites to win not only today's match, but also the group to qualify for the World Cup finals. They top the group with four wins from four matches, having scored twenty and conceded none in the process. Montenegro, whose women's team was only founded in December 2011, and having had to pre-qualify for this stage of qualifying, were bottom of the six team group, losing all four of their games, conceding 13 and scoring three goals. A draw today then would surely exceed their wildest dreams.
On a mild, overcast afternoon, any hopes the visitors might have had about clinging onto a draw were extinguished within a minute. Lianne Sanderson played the ball across the area to Toni Duggan, who fired the ball across goal and although it was fired straight at the keeper, she couldn't get enough on the ball to stop it going into the net. Within a minute, Montenegro had what turned out to be their only shot of the game when Armusa Kuc forced a smart low save from Siobhan Chamberlain at her near post. But England were otherwise completely camped in Montenegro half, and had what seemed a perfectly good goal disallowed on four minutes when Sanderson headed home a cross when the keeper flapped at the ball under minimal contact. However, Duggan made it two on 13 minutes when she tapped in from close range after the keeper failed to hold onto Fara Williams long range shot. It was somewhat of a surprise that the next goal didn't arrive until 37 minutes, when Eniola Aluko headed home Jill Scott's cross, and two minutes later place a lovely shot over the keeper from the edge of the box.
4-0 was a rather flattering scoreline for Montenegro, who battled gamely but were just hopelessly out of their depth against a hungry England team. The sight of half of the England team racing into opposition territory at the start of the second half showed they were far from happy to sit on their four goals, and within four minutes they scored their fifth, Karen Carney taking a touch before firing home, and on 55 minutes Sanderson rounded the goalkeeper and from a very tight angle, her shot was deflected into her own net by Jovana Mrkic. On 68 minutes it was seven, the ball falling at the feet of Demi Stokes, who took a touch before smashing the ball home for her first international goal. Two minutes later and it was eight with probably the best goal of the game, Duggan claiming her hat-trick was a delightful powerful flighted shot from the edge of the area. England seemed certain to reach double figures by now, although their next goal didn't arrive until 83 minutes, substitute Natasha Dowie thumping in a shot off the underside of the bar. The crowd then chanted "we want ten!" and although the England team tried hard to make it - perhaps a little too hard with long range and snatched shots - the tenth didn't arrive. This was a very entertaining game - England kept on playing with relentless desire and intensity, but it was impossible to not have sympathy with the Montengrans, who continued to battle hard throughout, never threw in the towel and showed plenty of pride for their nation - they were just completely outclassed in every respect.
Video highlights of this match can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/26901726