By Alison McConnell
ENGLAND………………2 (Bronze 39, Hemp 45)
SCOTLAND…………… 1 (Hanson 45+2)
Pedro Martinez Losa was gutted not to kick off the Nations League campaign with a win but declared himself satisifed with the heart and courage Scotland showed in a compelling second-half display in the Stadium of Light.
First half goals from Lucy Bronze and Lauren Hemp had given England a two-goal lead in an opening period they had dominated before Scotland forced their way back into the contest via Kirsty Hanson.
It made for an entertaining second period as Scotland boldly looked for a leveller; but for the woodwork they may well have got it.
“Firstly, we are disappointed because we came here to win,” said Martinez Losa. “We wanted to come here to compete and to show that we can play and I think we did that. Scotland were brilliant in many other moments. We want to do it again now in other matches.
“This is the next level of the women’s game and this is where we are bringing this team. It is incredible for the game and it was an incredible atmosphere. We will never be happy losing games.
“We have to take the positives, recover and go again on Tuesday.
“We showed in the second-half. We are a team whose identity is to work hard, press and be aggressive but we also want to have the ball. There were moments we showed our level but we can do better on the ball.
“At this level it is decided by small margins. This time it was England but this team is ready to go again on Tuesday.”
The opening seconds posted note of just how tough a night Scotland were in for when Rachel McLaughlan was caught offguard by the immediate attentions of Rachel Daly as she tried to usher the ball out of play for a by-kick.
It set the tone for an evening when Scotland were up against it for large chunks of this game with England dominant in possession.
There was a reprieve when Rachel Daly thought she had turned that dominance into a lead only for an offside call to deny her a call.
It was a stay of execution for Scotland as the opening period drew to a frantic finale.
Bronze broke the deadlock after Katie Zelem’s ball into the box was headed past Lee Gibson in the Scotland goal.
Scotland striker Martha Thomas was furious – she felt she had a decent penalty call in the build-up to the opener after England captain Millie
Bright seemed to go through the back of her. With no VAR in operation there was no means of checking the infringement.
“It is a clear penalty. It changed the game,” said Martinez Losa. “I seen it clearly. We are polite at this level but Martha clearly felt that she had been fouled.
“It changed the game. I have seen it very clear live and I had no question about it. We are polite at this level but all I can say is it is a clear penalty. I can only tell you my penalty. On another day hopefully it is a decision that is on our side. There is clear contact from behind but there is nothing that we can do now.”
Those frustrations were nothing compared to Scotland’s sense of irritation when their night took a further turn for the worse.
Nicola Docherty was robbed by Daly and, with McLaughlan caught out at the back post, Hemp stole in to head again past Gibson.
Scotland’s response was swift. Claire Emslie’s ball across the six-yard box was missed by everyone except Kirsty Hanson who stole in to prod the ball past Mary Earps.
England came out of the traps in the opening minutes of the second period as they looked to re-establish that two-goal lead.
Daly had a decent chance she scorned but Scotland, again to their credit, did not give up the ghost as they continued to search for parity.
Hanson turned provider when she delivered a cross for Thomas who got a header away but never looked likely of causing Earps too much trouble as she claimed the ball on the line.
Scotland, again to their credit, continued to try to ask questions of their hosts. Hanson turned provider when she delivered a cross for Thomas who got a header away but never looked likely of causing Earps too much trouble.
Hanson whacked the crossbar with a glorious effort while Lauren James thought she had scored England’s third in added time only for an offside flag to rule it out.
It would have been harsh on Scotland.