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Canada capitalizes on England mistakes to win women's soccer friendly 2-0

STOKE-ON-TRENT, United Kingdom — Evelyne Viens and Nichelle Prince capitalized on defensive miscues and Canada blunted the England attack the rest of the way for a 2-0 win in a women's soccer friendly Tuesday.

STOKE-ON-TRENT, United Kingdom — Evelyne Viens and Nichelle Prince capitalized on defensive miscues and Canada blunted the England attack the rest of the way for a 2-0 win in a women's soccer friendly Tuesday.

The mistakes came early and late -- in the third and 86th minutes -- and they proved costly.

The victory was a timely confidence boost for the eighth-ranked Canadians, coming against an in-season English team ranked sixth in the world and playing at home, albeit without fans at bet365 Stadium, the 30,000-capacity home of Stoke City of the second-tier Championship.

Both teams played last Friday with Canada blanking No. 31 Wales 3-0 in Cardiff and England losing 3-1 to No. 3 France in Caen.

Canada captain Christine Sinclair, who limped off the field in the first half against Wales with an undisclosed injury, did not dress Tuesday. 

Canada struck early, taking advantage of a defensive blunder. Janine Beckie drove towards the England penalty box and sent the ball in to Viens, who hesitated because she was in an offside position. Defender Demi Stokes grabbed the ball and tried to send it to her goalkeeper only to see Viens muscle her off the ball and send it over the onrushing Carly Telford from close range.

It was the second goal in as many games for Viens, who opened her international account against Wales. The 24-year-old Sky Blue FC forward, a prolific scorer at the University of South Florida with 73 goals in 77 games, has earned all five of her caps under new coach Bev Priestman.

Canada looked calm and collected in the face of England's attempts to find a tying goal.

Substitute goalkeeper Karen Bardsley was slow getting rid of the ball on a Millie Bright back pass and Prince poked the ball in with the clock winding down.

Priestman made three changes to her starting lineup with Viens, Beckie and Allysha Chapman coming in for Sinclair, Jordyn Huitema and Gabrielle Carle. Desiree Scott served as skipper in her 160th international appearance.

The Canadian starting 11 came into the match with a combined cap count of 751. Barring Sinclair and absent defender Kadeisha Buchanan, it was probably Canada's preferred lineup.

England was without injured skipper Steph Houghton with Bright, a Chelsea defender, captaining the Lionesses for the first time. Star fullback Lucy Bronze, who missed the France match through injury, came on in the 64th minute.

After going behind early, England had a good period of first-half pressure. The Lionesses moved the ball around while Canada focused on defence and looked to counter-attack.

England's Jordan Nobbs came close in the 29th minute with Canadian 'keeper Stephanie Labbe getting a fingertip to her free kick before it deflected off the crossbar.

Stokes, returning from injury, was substituted in the 32d minute.

Telford had to push a shot by Quinn, who goes by one name, over the crossbar in the 40th minute.

While the Canadians had few attacking opportunities in the half, they had some success with the long ball, the pace of Deanne Rose and the vision of Beckie. When push came to shove, the English defence did not look that steady. 

At the other end, England managed some decent buildup play but the final ball or shot was lacking.

England made several changes at halftime with Bardsley replacing Telford in goal. Rose and Viens gave way to Prince and Huitema at the hour-mark. Centre back Shelina Zadorsky took the captain's armband when Scott departed in the 66th minute.

Defender Vanessa Gilles recovered from a giveaway in the 81st minute, getting a leg in to nick the ball off Lauren Hemp on a goal-scoring opportunity. Hemp and Gilles clashed heads soon after going for an aerial ball, with Hemp left bleeding from the forehead.

Canada evened its all-time record against the Lionesses at 7-7-0. While the Canadians had won two out of the past three, the loss was painful — knocking Canada out of the 2015 World Cup in a 2-1 quarterfinal defeat on home soil. 

Tuesday's game marked Priestman's fifth as Canada coach (3-2-0)

The 34-year-old Priestman was part of the England coaching setup under former women's coach Phil Neville, now in charge of Inter Miami CF. She returned to Canada Soccer in October to succeed Kenneth Heiner-Moller, who took a coaching job in his native Denmark.

'The Canada contest was the third for Norway's Hege Riise as interim England head coach. She is in charge — and will also oversee Team Great Britain's soccer entry at the Tokyo Olympics — until September when Sarina Wiegeman leaves her post as Dutch coach to take over the Lionesses.

Riise's coaching staff includes Rhian Wilkinson, a former Canadian assistant coach who won 181 caps as a player for Canada.

Tuesday marked the 10th anniversary of the Barclays FA Women's Super League, which is now home to Canada's Beckie (Manchester City), Jessie Fleming (Chelsea), Rylee Foster (Liverpool), Adriana Leon (West Ham) and Zadorsky (Tottenham). 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 11, 2021

The Canadian Press