Nikita Parris and Ellen White struck the decisive blows as England edged their battle of Britain with Scotland at the Women’s World Cup.
Group D’s curtain-raiser pitted two home nations against each other and two first-half goals saw England run out 2-1 winners at the Allianz Riviera in Nice – Claire Emslie reduced the deficit after the break but her effort proved little more than a consolation for the spirited Scots on their World Cup debut.
England have been nominated as the representative nation that holds Great Britain’s hopes of qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in their hands and finishing as one of the top three European nations will get the job done.
And forward Parris, strutting her stuff in France ahead of her move to domestic giants Lyon, was satisfied to see her team overcome a courageous Scottish fightback.
“We had to get that win on the board and that was the most important thing,” said the 25-year-old.
“Credit to Scotland; they came out second-half fighting, which we all knew they would. They’re not going to give up easily and they were going to die trying.
“Credit to them, Shelly Kerr and the team, and I hope they do well in the tournament, but ultimately, we won the game and now we’ve got that step forward into Argentina [England’s next Group D game on June 14].”
Parris gave England the lead from the penalty spot, rocketing home from 12 yards after a video assistant referee review penalised Nicola Docherty for handling Fran Kirby’s cross.
A sumptuous opportunist’s strike from White made it 2-0 five minutes before the break, the striker expertly bending home after Kirby had robbed Rachel Corsie of the ball in the area.
But in the second period, Scotland took the fight to their neighbours and 25-year-old Emslie squeezed an effort home under the despairing challenge of Abbie McManus.
For all the character they displayed in their first World Cup match, the Scots were unable to muster an equaliser – but head coach Shelley Kerr certainly saw enough to suggest her charges have more than enough about them to make a splash in the remainder of their campaign.
“England are tipped to win this tournament, so [it’s good] to run them so close, especially in the second half,” she said.
“I didn’t think we played particularly well in the first half but I’ve got to give England credit. I think they played with intensity, they put us under pressure in the right areas, and they got their two goals.
“What we need to do now is applaud the players for the second-half performance and we need to dissect our performance.
“We’ve come in this tournament for the first time and we know we need to win one game – it doesn’t have to be the first game.
“It would be nice if we’d have got something out it but we regroup, we rest, we recover and we’re ready to go again against Japan.”
Phil Neville’s England take on Argentina in Le Havre in their next group game whilst Scotland pit their wits against Japan in Rennes – both on Friday, June 14.