Phil Neville Pleased with Certain Aspects of England’s Performance against Scotland

England head coach Phil Neville at a postgame news conference at the 2019 SheBelieves Cup.

England head coach Phil Neville praised his side for the way they played in the first half but admitted his “disappointment” at a more sluggish second half.

Goals from Nikita Parris from the penalty spot and Ellen White’s calm finish ensured a late Scotland goal was no more than a consolation.

“We enjoyed the game and we enjoyed the victory,” said Neville. “It was really hot out there but we played really well first half, we’d spoken all week about the style of play we wanted and we did that in the first half.

“We knew Scotland would probably sit back and try and play the game on the counter, so we wanted a really fast start and that’s why we played really adventurous and really high in the first half. We scored a really good goal and could have had more before halftime.”

It looked as though the tempo of the first half caught up with the Lionesses during a second half in which the humidity felt like it was continuing to rise despite moving into the early hours of the evening.

England struggled to create the chances they managed during the first 45 minutes and Scotland’s growing pressure told when Claire Emslie fired high into the roof of the net with just more than 10 minutes to go.

“The disappointment is after doing everything well in the first half and the standards we’d set, we needed to keep the ball better. The legs were getting heavy, we had to make substitutions because of a couple of knocks, so we have to keep driving those standards and keep being ruthless.”

England’s first goal came after another controversial VAR decision inside 15 minutes. Fran Kirby’s cross hit Nicola Docherty’s arm and after a quick check by referee Jana Adamkova, the penalty was given.

“We’ve been given two talks on handballs before the tournament. A FIFA official and Sian Massey-Ellis both said that was going to be a penalty. I haven’t seen it, but I trusted the moment the referee came over it was going to be a penalty.”

Neville also felt England had a stronger penalty appeal minutes later when the ball this time hit Caroline Weir but on this occasion VAR turned away England’s appeals after another quick check.

In the second half, Neville had to once again rejig his defense when Millie Bright appeared to pick up a knock to her shoulder after a tussle with Erin Cuthbert and was replaced by Abbie McManus.

Several other players also picked up knocks during the 90 minutes but Neville’s not overly worried about the physical state of his squad ahead of Friday’s match against Argentina.

“Millie was holding her shoulder, Beth got a cramp, and Fran went down in the first half after a kick, so we had to protect them.

“Millie is the one we’ll have to look at for the next game but I would expect her, Toni Duggan, and Demi Stokes to be ready for the next game.”

Neville reserved praise for FIFA’s official player of the match, Nikita Parris, after the new Lyon forward scored the opening penalty and generally caused consistent issues down the left side of Scotland’s defense.

Both Jen Beattie and Docherty received cautions for late fouls on the winger and Neville had nothing but praise in his press conference.

“Nikita is the example probably of the work England have done, Man City have done, and Nick Cushing’s done. We challenged players 16 month ago with their own individual development plan to be the best player in the world in their best position.

“We’ve seen a player develop from being a really, really good FA WSL player to now signing for one of the best teams in the world and making impacts in the big games and the big occasions. She’s got another five or ten percent left in her but she’s got that ability to create and you’ve seen a snippet today of what a special player we’ve got.”

England’s concession ensured a nervy final 10 minutes but in reality, goalkeeper Karen Bardsley rarely had a major save to make and England remained untroubled throughout the final stages.

Neville has often spoken about being pleased when his team get a stern test but on this occasion he admits he’d have quite liked to see the game out without the late goal.

“I suppose but we wanted to be 3–0 up. I wanted to be making substitutions to rest players and see out the game. It’s not in our makeup to game manage at the end but I did think we did it really well. We won’t get carried away because we know we’ve got a lot to do but we showed in that first half some of the football we can play.

“I just want our players to play well and to play with that freedom and expression. Even on the goal, we gave it away but we gave it away trying to do the right thing. We gave it away playing the pass that we wanted to play so I’m not going to criticize my players for that.”