England produced an impressive display to hold world champions USA to a 2-2 draw in their second group stage match of the SheBelieves Cup at Nashville's Nissan Stadium.
Phil Neville's side almost got off to the worst possible start, when a USA corner inside the first minute of the game was cleared off the line by Manchester City's Abbie McManus.
The Lionesses' sloppy opening defensively was eventually punished when a half-clearance by Rachel Daly was chested down by veteran forward Megan Rapinoe just outside the area, before unleashing a stunning volley into the top corner.
The USA's joy was short-lived however, as England captain Steph Houghton bent in a sublime curling effort after Toni Duggan laid the ball off from an indirect free-kick inside the box. Five minutes after the restart, things got better for England when a delightful flicked pass over the USA defence from Frank Kirby, saw Nikita Parris go through on goal to fire home and hand her side the lead.
With England beginning to impose themselves on the game, their frailties at set-pieces were exposed when Tobin Heath slammed home from a goalmouth scramble to restore parity for the USA. Despite both sides' best efforts to snatch a late victory, neither were able to produce one last moment of quality, and in the end a draw was perhaps a fair result.
Key Talking Point
After falling to a shock 2-2 draw with Japan thanks to an injury-time equaliser from Yuka Momiki, the pressure was on the USA to bounce back with a victory in front of their home fans. Jill Ellis' side seemed intent on delivering a performance befitting of their number one status, and after Rapinoe's wonder goal, they seemed on course to avenge their demons from the first group stage game.
But after goals from Houghton and Parris threatened to hand England a surprise victory, Tobin Heath was on hand to spare the USA's blushes. Their second draw of the campaign now means their clash with Brazil takes on much more significance as they seek to avoid the disaster of finishing bottom of the group.
Starting XI: Franch (5); O'Hara (6), Dahlkemper (7), Davidson (6), Dunn (6); Lavelle (6), Ertz (7), Pugh (6); Heath (7), Morgan (8), Rapinoe (8*).
Substitutes: Press (7), Sauerbrunn (6), Mewis (6), Lloyd (N/A)
STAR PLAYER -
In arguably the game's most outstanding piece of technical quality, Rapinoe chested a ball down just outside the box before striking a sumptuous half-volley into the top corner, and past a helpless Karen Bardsley in the England goal. Her career may be in its twilight years, but she certainly proved she can step up on the big occasions.
Key Talking Point
Having come into the game off the back of a thrilling comeback victory against Brazil on Wednesday, England knew their task would simply get harder against the reigning World Cup champions.
Such a daunting prospect seemed to filter into the players' performances in the opening exchanges, with the Lionesses struggling to string passes together. But after seemingly being jolted into gear by Rapinoe's thunderbolt strike, Phil Neville's side grew into the game immeasurably, and more than matched the world's number one side.
Despite being unable to hold on to a famous victory after going 2-1 up in the second half, England could undoubtedly leave the game with their heads held high. With the World Cup just around the corner, this was a real statement of a performance from the Lionesses, who showed how far they have come since Neville took charge in early 2018.
Starting XI: Bardsley (7); Stokes (6), McManus (6), Houghton (7), Daly (6); Parris (7), Bronze (7), Walsh (6), Duggan (7); White (7), Kirby (8).
Substitutes: Mead (6), Stanway (6), Taylor (N/A)
In an excellent team performance, it would perhaps be unfair to pick out one player deserving of this award.
But the side's moment of genius came courtesy of Chelsea star Fran Kirby whose assist for Nikita Parris' goal was a thing of beauty. The 25-year-old's first-time over the top through ball caught the American backline off guard, and sent her teammate clean through on goal.
That’s a brilliant goal from England @Lionesses. Great initial lofted through-ball from Fran Kirby and some finish from Nikita Parris too.— Leanne Prescott (@_lfcleanne) March 2, 2019
With Arsenal's Jordan Nobbs missing from action with a long-term injury, Kirby may be the one England turn to when trying to unlock a packed defence.
In their final game of the SheBelieves cup, Phil Neville's Lionesses take on Japan on Tuesday night knowing that a victory could potentially see them lift their first piece of silverware under the former Manchester United defender's leadership.