Date published: Saturday 1st September 2018 8:56
Phil Neville hailed England’s second-half performance as the best of his reign as the Lionesses reached the 2019 World Cup finals with a 3-0 win against Wales.
The derby clash in Newport was a winner-takes-all affair with Wales knowing victory would take them through to France next summer.
But second-half goals from Toni Duggan, Jill Scott and Nikita Parris rewarded England’s superiority and deflated the vast majority in a 5,000 capacity crowd at Rodney Parade.
“I wanted to see my players play to the best of their ability and I saw that in the second half,” England head coach Neville said.
“In that period we executed the game plan perfectly, it worked a treat.
“The one-two touch passing, switching the ball from side to side, the control – for 30 minutes in that second half it was the best performance since I took over.
“It was a team that was enjoying playing football and that is what I want to see.”
Neville, who took over in January, cut a frustrated figure when Wales held England 0-0 at Southampton in April.
But Wales were left punch-drunk this time as three goals in 12 minutes saw their defence finally breached in qualifying after 687 minutes of defiance.
“The plan was to sustain attack after attack,” Neville said.
“Like a boxer on the ropes they’re eventually going to go down, and that’s what happened.
“I’ve been on both sides of that in my career and we eventually saw the fatigue in the Welsh players’ legs.
“But Wales deserve massive respect because they took us probably to a place where this England team has never been – and that’s to the very last game.”
Wales escaped in the sixth minute when Parris saw her close-range effort ruled out despite clearly standing in an onside position when Alex Greenwood’s deflected shot fell at her feet.
There were home claims for a 36th-minute penalty when Kayleigh Green fell under Karen Bardsley’s challenge, but Wales created few chances and finally buckled under the pressure.
Wales still have the outside chance of a play-off spot and manager Jayne Ludlow said: “There is still hope and we’ll hold on to that for as long as we can.
“If we don’t get a play-off place we are already looking ahead to the next campaign.
“We were good enough for 50-odd minutes and I was pleased to see we can already see the next step coming out.
“But we weren’t quite good enough for 90 minutes. We made errors and we haven’t made those errors in other games.”