Scotland maintained their 100% record in their Women’s World Cup qualifying campaign following a 2-0 win over a stubborn Polish side at Fir Park on Saturday evening. Goals from Lisa Evans and substitute Leanne Crichton secured Anna Signeul’s fifth wins out of five as they top Group Four.
The Scots were far from their best as their opponents sat behind the ball to soak up pressure and break up play in the final third, they were helped at times by poor passing and wrong decision making in and around the Polish 18 yard box.
It took six minutes for Scotland to record their first chance on goal, Leanne Ross gathered the ball on the left flank and her resulting cross was diverted the wrong side of the near post by Marta Mika, with many of those in Fir Park celebrating thinking it was the opening goal.
Four minutes later and a lob over the top of the Scotland defence gave Poland their first sniff of goal, but skipper Gemma Fay raced off her line to comfortably gather the ball.
As Scotland stepped up their efforts, the Poles were living dangerously at the back, but luck was on their side.
On 11 minutes Kim Little laid the ball off to Hayley Lauder on the left, but the full back miscued her cross into the path of Lisa Evans, but the German-based striker could not get a foot onto the ball and the chance went begging.
Three minutes later the Polish crossbar was rattled as defender Rachel Corsie headed Kim Little’s corner off the woodwork.
On the half hour mark Scotland went close twice in as many minutes, Lauder crossed into the 18 yard box for Lisa Evans but a lucky deflection saw the ball escape the striker’s outstretched boot – with any contact sending the ball into the back of the net – and that was followed on by Jane Ross prodding a shot goal bound but failed to direct it past Anna Szymanska in the Poland goal who smothered the effort.
Lauder once again managed to whip in a cross on the 35th minute mark, Szymanska looked to comfortably gather the ball under no pressure, but the keeper fumbled it and hurriedly gathered it as Kim Little looked to take advantage of the gaffe.
Five minutes before the break and Scotland again struck the cross bar, some great individual play from Lisa Evans down the left saw the striker cut inside before unleashing a curling right footed effort which looked destined to nestle into the back of the net, but Szymanska managed to get a glove onto the shot and tipped it onto the crossbar and away from danger. A great shot matched by an equally great save,
With little to do throughout the first half, Gemma Fay in the Scotland goal had to be alert with minutes before the half time interval, as she pulled off a brilliant one handed save to deny Patrycja Bhicerzac’s low shot and what would have been an undeserved goal against the run of play.
Scotland started the second half as they had played the first half by pressuring the Polish rearguard and just four minutes after the break Jo Love had a great chance to break the deadlock. Kim Little fired a long looping cross to Szymanska’s far post where Love lay in wait, but the Glasgow City midfielder’s header was saved point blank by the Polish keeper and out for a corner.
The deadlock was finally broken two minutes later as Kim Little who has proved to be Scotland’s greatest player in recent years, threaded a pass through the Polish defence for Evans to run onto and fire her shot past Szymanska at the near post to give Anna Signeul’s side a deserved 1-0 lead.
Poland really should have been level on 57 minutes, Lauder was caught out of position by a long cross field ball to Gonzalez, but the midfielder’s shot from just inside the Scotland box was tame and Fay comfortably saved the effort.
On 71 minutes, Poland were awarded a free kick in a dangerous area, after a faked taking of the set piece, the ball was whipped in by Pakylska but was headed out for a corner. The resulting corner was cleared as far as Aleksandra Sikora some 35 yards from goal, the right back tried an audacious shot as she saw Fay off her line but the Celtic keeper scrambled back in time to touch the ball onto the bar and to the head of Rachel Corsie who headed the ball back into the grateful arms of the Celtic and Scotland keeper.
With less than ten minutes remaining, Scotland doubled their advantage and killed off any hope of the Poles grabbing an equaliser. Kim Little who was the star of the show once again, pulled off some world class twists and turns on the byline inside the box leaving the defenders flat footed, the Seattle Reign playmaker crossed the ball to the far post where Evans was waiting and the striker knocked the ball down to substitute Leanne Crichton who hit her shot first time past Szymanska, leaving the keeper with no chance.
Speaking after the match, Signeul said: “They [Poland] were sitting so deep, it was difficult to get behind them in the first half. It’s fantastic and it’s important that we keep being positive and just expect to score lots of goals and be brilliant all the time.
“We have to appreciate all the good things we do and enjoy a victory like this. We kept going, kept going. Some of our players were brilliant and it was fantastic to see that, as a team, we were very solid defensively. I didn’t feel like they would score. I’m confident we’re going to score goals because we have fantastic players and two different goalscorers tonight.”
“There are expectations on the players to perform at a high level all the time and that’s not so easy to do, especially in must-win games. If we had scored from one of our two early chances there would have been more, but Poland are a good team and it’s difficult to break down a side that is sitting in deep. Lisa had a fantastic finish and a great second half. We tried to get her in behind the Poland defence and she did that for the goal and the assist for the second. She’s world-class now.”
Scotland will be without a number of their top players for the Bosnia game, including Rachel Corsie and Lisa Evans, as they are one booking away from missing the all-important top of the table clash against Sweden in June. But despite choosing to drop a number of key players, Signeul is not seeing Bosnia as an easy game, she added: “We go to Bosnia and won’t take anything for granted. Sweden went there and only won 1-0, so it will be a tough game and tough travel with three flights to get there. We have huge respect for them.”
Check out Scotzine’s match photos on our official Flickr page at www.flickr.com/photos/scotzine/sets/72157643491250754