Scotland Women put in an encouraging display but fell to a 2-1 defeat to England in their Uefa Nations League opener.
In a frantic six minutes at the Stadium of Light, England went 2-1 up after goals from Lucy Bronze and Lauren Hemp in the 39th and 45th minutes, before Kirsty Hanson halved the deficit for Scotland with the last touch of the first half.
There were no further goals in the second half as Scotland battled against the World Cup finalists, but could not find an equaliser.
Scotland return to Nations League action on Tuesday at Hampden when they face Belgium, who beat the Netherlands 2-1 on Friday night.
England start with intent in Sunderland
Aberdeen’s Rachel Corsie returned to skipper Scotland after missing out on the last two camps due to injury, while Stonehaven’s Christy Grimshaw and Rachel McLauchlan, who hails from Avoch, also featured from the start.
It was an impressive attacking approach from England, with the play barely leaving the final third in the opening stages, as Scotland struggled to get any touches on the ball.
England were gifted an opportunity when Claire Emslie lost possession in the middle of the park, gifting possession to Lauren James who found striker Rachel Daly.
Corsie did well to put club team-mate Daly under pressure, as the forward’s effort proved too tame to trouble Scotland goalkeeper Lee Gibson.
England striker Daly was afforded another chance when Bronze picked her out in the box, but this time she was denied by Sam Kerr, who made the vital block.
Despite England’s early dominance, it was Mary Earps who was troubled first as Scotland had their first real chance to silence the crowd in Sunderland.
The ball landed at the feet of Caroline Weir and the Real Madrid midfielder unleashed a rocket of a strike that was kept out by the outstretched England goalkeeper.
Boos rung around the Stadium of Light after 25 minutes as England thought they had taken the lead through a Daly header from a James corner, but after a slight delay Italian referee Maria Sole Caputi ruled it out for offside.
Scotland were finding their way into the game, as Hanson did well to burst down the left wing against Bronze and played a superb ball across the face of goal, but an incoming Thomas could not connect.
England took the lead five minutes before half-time and this header counted.
Zelem sent a terrific sweeping cross to find Bronze, who had timed her run to perfect and sent a glancing header beyond Gibson at her near post.
It was 2-0 when Daly whipped in a ball from the left flank which saw Hemp, who managed to lose her marker McLauchlan at the back post, head home.
Scotland got back in the game on the stroke of half-time after some poor defending from England. Alex Greenwood lost possession, before being nutmegged by a Claire Emslie pass, which led to Hanson stabbing the ball into the net.
— Scotland National Team (@ScotlandNT) September 22, 2023
The first chance of the second half came from England after some nice link-up play between Daly and Bronze teed up Chloe Kelly, but her effort zipped wide of the post.
James was next to have a go as she hit a curling effort, reminiscent of her goal against China at the World Cup, however, her strike finished the wrong side of the woodwork.
Hanson, who had been Scotland’s best player, sent in a cross for Scotland’s first chance after the interval, but Thomas’ powerful header was well saved by Earps.
Another dangerous ball was sent in by Hanson, but this time her intended target was Emslie, but she was thwarted by a good clearance from Greenwood.
The woodwork denied Hanson her brace and Scotland an equaliser. The Aston Villa forward hit a looping effort on the rebound that had Earps beaten, but the ball came back off the crossbar.
With five minutes left on the clock, Scotland were still pushing for an equaliser with Earps called into action to save a driving shot from Grimshaw.
England had another goal ruled out in injury time when James had headed home the rebound after her initial shot had been saved by goalkeeper Gibson.
England (3-4-3): Earps 6, Carter 6, Bright 6, Greenwood 6, Bronze 7, Stanway 7, Zelem 7, James 7, Kelly 7 (Toone 59), Daly 8, Hemp 7.
Subs not used: Roebuck, Hampton, Nobbs, Morgan, Charles, Coombs, Parker, Park, Le Tissier, Robinson, Staniforth
Scotland (4-2-3-1): Gibson 6, Docherty 6, Corsie 6, Howard 6, McLauchlan 6 (Brown 87), Weir 7, Kerr 6, Grimshaw 6, Hanson 8 (Davidson 90), Thomas 6 (Gallacher 83) , Emslie 6 (Evans 83).
Subs not used: Fife, Cumings, Mukandi, Maclean, Clark, Rodgers, Napier
Player of the match: Kirsty Hanson