England manager Phil Neville demanded his side be “relentless” in maintaining their high standards for the rest of the Women’s World Cup after Scotland gave them a scare in their opening match of the tournament.
England ran out 2-1 winners in the Group D match in Nice but had to endure a nervy finish after Claire Emslie pulled a goal back for Scotland.
Nikita Parris put the Lionesses ahead at the Allianz Riviera with a 14th-minute penalty awarded for handball via VAR and Ellen White’s curled finish made it 2-0 in the 40th minute.
— FIFA Women’s World Cup (@FIFAWWC) June 9, 2019
But, having looked very much in control, having two efforts chalked off for offside and seeing Scotland goalkeeper Lee Alexander produce some fine saves, Neville’s team were made to sweat for the win.
The manager said he was “pleased with the result” but not the performance.
He told BBC One: “The first game is always the most difficult game.
“But we set certain standards and the players now need to keep meeting those standards and if we drop below those standards then we get second-half performances like we just got.
“I want us to play like we did in the first half for 90 minutes. We need to be relentless now as we want to be here for the next 37 days and to do that then every single one of us, myself included, have got to keep driving the standards all the time. The standards start with me.
“At 2-0 it is always a dangerous scoreline and we needed a third goal. Scotland have got good players, they’re a good team.”
Scotland manager Shelley Kerr took plenty of positives from her side’s debut performance at the Women’s World Cup finals.
— Scotland National Team (@ScotlandNT) June 9, 2019
“England are tipped to win this tournament so to run them so close, especially in the second half, is a positive,” she said.
“I didn’t think we played particularly well in the first half but I’ve got to give England credit because they played with intensity and put us under pressure in the right areas and got their two goals.
“I think we came out in the second half and showed what we are capable of.”
Kerr refused to be drawn on the controversy surrounding the penalty decision, given when Fran Kirby’s cross struck Nicola Docherty on the arm, with Czech referee Jana Adamkova watching the footage back and pointing to the spot.
“I don’t want to comment on the VAR decision because the referees and the officials have got a very difficult job,” she said. “What I want to do now is applaud England for their performance and we need to dissect our performance.
“We came into this tournament for the first time knowing that we just need to win one game.
“It would have been nice if it was the first one and we got something out of it but it doesn’t have to be. We regroup and rest and recover and then go again against Japan.”