Czech Republic Women 2-3 England Women: Lionesses end 2019 on a high as late Leah Williamson strike eases pressure on boss Phil Neville
- England battled to a dogged victory over the Czech Republic with a 3-2 win
- The home side took the lead through Szewieckova but it was soon cancelled out
- England hitback with a quick double through Bethany England and Beth Mead
- Szewieckova leveled for the hosts with a stunning left-footed effort
- Arsenal midfielder Leah Williamson won the game for England late on
Ending the year on a winning note must have been in Phil Neville's mind when he scheduled the Lionesses' final international friendly of the year against 28th ranked Czech Republic.
Scraping through unconvincingly will have done little to alleviate the pressure on his job, though he maintains he is confident he has done enough to keep the FA hierarchy at bay.
He said: 'I never felt pressure on me personally. I have had unbelievable backing from the FA, they are going to throw their absolute weight behind the next push we are going to make, that's been the message I have had.'
England ended their 2019 campaign on a high after a late win over the Czech Republic
Leah Williamson netted a fine strike in the 86th minute to earn the Lioness' victory
Katerina Svitkova, a rare star in the Sparta Prague side that lost 13-2 (agg) in the last 16 of the Champions League, threaded a perfectly weighted through ball for the waiting Tereza Szewieczkova. England were behind with just 15 minutes on the clock – a nightmare start for the boss.
But Neville insists he didn't fear the final outcome despite conceding the home side could have gone in front in the opening moments of the game.
'I didn't think the result was in any doubt,' he said. 'To play in front of 400 people, for the players to come out and feel that eerie atmosphere, in snow, sleet and cold, then perform with that attitude, was great.'
A quickfire double from Bethany England and Beth Mead gave the visitors the lead
Mead's strike for England was a beautifully curled effort from inside the box into the top corner
Luckily for Neville, the Lionesses wasted no time in responding. Within two minutes Czech keeper and YouTube sensation Barbora Votikova was picking the ball out of her net. Bethany England – one of five changes – stabbed home Nikita Parris' ball in from close range.
Beth Mead put England ahead with a curling effort five minutes later. But Neville's sigh of relief was to be short lived. 21-year-old Szewieczkova hit home her second of the night from 25 yards when Kiera Walsh gave away possession and the defence again failed to clear the danger just before the half hour mark.
But it would be Arsenal youngster Leah Williamson to break the part-timers' hearts four minutes from time – with Votikova's hand not quite strong enough to keep the wildly deflected winner out.
However the World Cup semi finalists struggled to break down a stubborn Czech defence
Czech Republic (3-5-2): Votikova; Sedlackova, Bertholdova, Sonntagova; Szewieckova (Khyrova 71), Cahynova, Svitkova, Jarchovska, Vonkova; Staskova (K. Dubcova 85), Martinkova
Subs not used: Chlastakova, M. Dubcova, Lukasova, Necidova, Nepokojova, Ringelova, Ruzickova
Goals: Szewieckova (15, 27)
Manager: Karel Rada
England (4-2-3-1): Telford 5; Bronze 4, Bright 4, Williamson 4, Stokes 5, Scott 5, Walsh 4, Parris 5, Hemp (64 – 5), Staniforth 6 (Nobbs 76), Mead 6, England 6 (Daly 77)
Subs not used: Bonner, Earps, McManus, Roebuck, Stanway
Goals: England (17), Mead (20), Williamson (86)
Manager: Phil Neville
Referee: Ewa Augustyn (POL)
Stadium: Stadion Střelecký ostrov
'It's good to hear it [the criticism] but we want to make sure we silence all of you. Tonight was about fighting for England and trying to take the pressure off a little bit,' said Williamson – admitting nor she or Walsh could believe she had scored her first senior international goal.
'We don't want to go backwards, we are not going to fall down the world rankings. We are up there to stay. We will fix what has been going wrong on the pitch and tonight was the first step.'
But this disjointed looking England side have now kept just one clean sheet in their last eight games and Neville knows he must find a way to plug the leak.
He added: 'We've got massive improvements to make. We're conceding too many goals, we let goals in easily and we're giving teams a sniff that they can get at us and win.'
He admitted earlier this week that his players needed a break from the international camp and now they will get it. England must wait until March 2020 for their next test – a small matter of defending the SheBelieves Cup.
Though unless they somehow shake off their World Cup hangover between now and then, there will be little chance of that.
Phil Neville made five changes to the side that lost to Germany on Saturday at Wembley
Tuesday night's result means the Lionesses have just two wins from their last eight games