Scots go so close in World Cup opener

© GettyClaire Emslie of Scotland celebrates with teammates.
Claire Emslie of Scotland celebrates with teammates.

Magnificently Beat England would have had a nice ring to it. But there wasn’t to be a second MBE in one weekend for Shelley Kerr.

The Scotland coach, who was recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, couldn’t have asked for more commitment from her players in their World Cup opener.

A VAR penalty against them had a dispiriting effect and the game got away from them in a one-sided first half that could have left them further behind than the two goals scored against them.

Few in the stadium would have predicted a tense finish at that point but Scottish determination and persistence set that up when Claire Emslie scored with just over 10 minutes to go.

They couldn’t carve out a chance for an equaliser and England deserved their win but, instead of coming to terms with a heavy defeat against one of the pre-tournament favourites, Scotland will emerge from the fixture with confirmation that they belong at this level.

Erin Cuthbert looks dejected after missing a first half chance

In the bigger picture of qualification for the knockout phase, this result hasn’t done any damage.

The Scots will have a more realistic shot at gaining points in Rennes on Friday against Japan and Paris against Argentina the following Wednesday.

Kerr made two changes to the team that beat Jamaica in the last warm-up game at Hampden Park, with Christie Murray and Sophie Howard replacing Jane Ross and Kirsty Smith.

The mixture of Scottish and English fans and flags across the Stade de Nice was nice to see but there was no getting away from the fact that Scotland v England will always be fiercely contested, whatever the sport and whatever the context.

This was no different, with fouls against both sides awarded before the match was even a minute old.

It was the Scots who settled into their rhythm after the game settled down.

A triangle of passes released Emslie down the right wing but her cutback failed to pick out Evans at the back post.

The Scottish defenders were coping well with the pressure, heat and the threat of their opponents but the intervention of VAR and the penalty goal that came from it took the wind out of their sails.

A cross from Fran Kirby took an accidental touch off left-back Nicola Docherty’s arm. The Czech referee didn’t spot it but the video referee did.

Nikita Parris was clinical and England were one up.

Scotland just about managed to weather the storm that followed.

On 19 minutes a Jen Beattie clearance was too weak and when the ball fell nicely for Fran Kirby, her low shot from 20 yards was just wide.

Scotland head coach Shelley Kerr, pitch side.

Three minutes later keeper Lee Alexander produced the save of the game – an instinctive near-post block with her foot to keep out an Ellen White volley.

In a one-sided spell of pressure there was also a White headed goal disallowed for offside.

It had been a while since the Scots were able to get themselves into English territory but a free-kick offered an opportunity to get the centre-backs into the box. The dead ball was delivered into the danger area, where Rachel Corsie couldn’t quite reach it with her attempt at a diving header.

Going in at half-time just one behind would have given the Scots some hope of a comeback but that hope was effectively wiped out when Corsie’s weak challenge at the edge of the box presented White with a glorious shooting opportunity just inside the 18-yard line that she didn’t pass up.

Scotland needed a fast beginning to the second half but it was England who got it. Beth Mead thought she had made it 3-0 but the goal was chalked off for an offside in the build-up.

The Scots started to string more passes together and at the end of one such move, an Emslie shot was straight at keeper Karen Bardsley.

With England content to have what they held, Emslie showed more hunger in the box after Evans had intercepted in midfield and made it 2-1.

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