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SheBelieves Cup: England undone by controversial penalty

By Tony Leighton

It was a “crazy decision,” said an angry Fara Williams of the penalty awarded against her that led to Babett Peter scoring the goal which sentenced England to a 2-1 defeat by Germany at the She Believes Cup in America last night.

Arsenal midfielder Williams, making her 150th international appearance, was adjudged to have fouled Alexandra Popp as the German striker attempted to shoot for goal eight minutes from time.

England had already been dealt a devastating blow when Manchester City striker Toni Duggan’s ninth minute opener was cancelled out through a cruel 76th minute own goal by Chelsea central defender Gilly Flaherty.

But the killer punch proved to be the penalty that, insisted Williams, should never have been awarded. “I thought it was 100 per cent a foul in my favour,” she said. “I thought the referee was giving me the free-kick.

“I was getting up to walk away, then I saw her point to the spot. If you ask Popp herself, she knows – she kicked the back of my foot, so it was a crazy decision.”

Substitute Peter coolly stroked home the penalty to complete a German comeback that had been kick-started by Flaherty’s own goal.

England were on course for a second victory in three meetings between the two teams, the first having come in the bronze medal match at last year’s World Cup.

They had capitalised on a good start to the game, being played at Nashville’s Nissan Stadium, when Duggan flicked a neat header just inside the far post from an excellent cross by Liverpool left back Alex Greenwood.

In spells after their goal England threatened to score a second, though without creating any clear-cut chances apart from an Alex Scott header that went narrowly wide shortly before the German equaliser.

Meanwhile Manchester City goalkeeper Karen Bardsley had to make saves from winger Isabel Kerschowski and midfielder Dzsenifer Marozsan, Kerschowski also having a shot deflected over the bar by captain Steph Houghton.

The equaliser arrived when, attempting to block a low cross by substitute Sara Dabritz, Flaherty instead turned the ball just inside the near post.

Then came the penalty that brought Germany victory to put them level at the top of the She Believes Cup table with the USA, who earlier in the day had beaten France 1-0 thanks to a stoppage time goal by striker Alex Morgan.

Those results mean that England will go into Wednesday’s meeting with France knowing that whoever loses the game will ended up bottom and pointless.

Williams added: “We’ll need another performance as good the ones we’ve given in our first two games (the opener was lost 1-0 to the USA) but this time to have a bit of luck on our side to get the result we want.”

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