Scott and Houghton ready for Olympics

Steph Houghton and Jill Scott line up for Team GB
Steph Houghton and Jill Scott line up for Team GB
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WEARSIDE pair Jill Scott and Stephanie Houghton immediately turned their attention to the Olympic opener after breaking Britain’s duck in women’s football.

Scott and Houghton both played the full 90 minutes in Team GB’s goalless draw with Sweden at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium yesterday as Hope Powell’s side enjoyed their first public outing.

Britain, who secured a behind-closed-doors win against South Africa last weekend, fly to Cardiff today ahead of next Wednesday’s opening Olympic group game against New Zealand – the first event of the games.

And after earning a deserved draw with a Swedish side who finished third at last year’s World Cup, the two former Sunderland Ladies duo are eager to get the home challenge off to the perfect start.

Midfielder Scott said: “The girls were looking forward to it – it was the first game for everyone to see as Team GB.

“We’ve been together now about 10 or 11 days and we’re really excited.

“We’ve got a bit of momentum going after that. Unfortunately we didn’t get the win, but we can take this performance into the game against New Zealand, analyse it and see where we can do better.”

Left-back Houghton added: “The last two weeks have been magnificent for us as players and we’re really excited.

“Now we’ve had the two friendlies, we can really focus on New Zealand and hopefully we can get the win. This was all about getting focused and making sure the squad got a run-out.

“We fly to Cardiff today and I’m sure we’ll have some rest. But as soon as tomorrow comes, we’ll be on it and get ready for the New Zealand game.”

South Hetton’s Houghton produced GB’s first effort on target in the 10th minute with a drilled 25-yard free-kick that was straight at Sweden stopper Hedvig Lindahl.

GB continued to look the livelier of the two sides, passing sharply and finding space, and again went close when Ellen White’s shot on the turn curled just past the far post.

Houghton again tried her luck on the half-hour mark when she drilled over the bar after a one-two with White, before Kelly Smith attempted an audacious chip from 45 yards which just drifted wide.

Smith had a goal correctly ruled out for offside on the stroke of half-time before a second half commenced that increasingly deteriorated in entertainment.

Both sides struggled to muster any threat in the final third, particularly with their delivery from out wide, and chances were at a premium.

Swedish striker Kosovare Asllani chipped into the side netting after getting to the ball ahead of GB replacement stopper Rachel Brown before fellow substitute Rachel Yankey spurned the opportunity of the game.

Yankey was picked out by a pinpoint through-ball by Karen Carney and with just keeper Hedvig Lindahl to beat, she curled the ball against the outside of the post.

Caroline Seger had a late chance for Sweden, but the scoreline was a fair barometer of proceedings as two of the medal hopefuls in the tournament concluded a pragmatic if hardly engaging warm-up.

Sunderland’s Scott added: “We’ve played Sweden a few times as England and they’ve always provided a contest.

“I thought it was okay. We passed the ball around well in the first half, but got a bit sloppy in the second. Defensively, we did well, but there’s more to come from us attacking-wise.

“Obviously, we’ve only just played together – this was only our second game, so a few nerves were always going to come with it, particularly with it being on the telly and quite a lot in the stadium as well.

“But a lot of the players have experience in situations like that, so hopefully it will be good experience under our belts.”

Great Britain: Bardsley (Brown 46), A Scott, Houghton, J Scott, Stoney (Rafferty 84), White (Yankey 46), Smith (Carney 63), Little, Dieke (Bradley 63), Asante (F Williams 46), Aluko. Subs not used: R Williams, Higgins, Susi, Ross, Clarke.

Sweden: Lindahl, Sembrant, Berglund, Svensson (Nilsson 46), Fischer (Levenstad 90), Thunebro, Dahlkvist (Almgren 59), Asllani (Goransson 67), Jakobsson, M Hammarstrom (Edlund 67), Seger. Subs not used: Lundgren, Moberg, Segerstrom, Landstrom, K Hammarstrom.