England Women crashed to a late defeat in France as their first match since Mark Sampson’s sacking failed to bring any feel-good factor after another damaging week for the national side.
Interim manager Mo Marley, hoping to create some positive, sporting headlines following the explosive session in front of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, saw a goalkeeping error from Siobhan Chamberlain gift Viviane Asseyi an injury-time winner in Valenciennes.
The Lionesses had beaten the same opponent by the same 1-0 scoreline in the quarter-finals of Euro 2017 – the high watermark of a soon-to-be-doomed regime – and were coming off the back of a 6-0 victory over Russia in Sampson’s last stand.
But it is impossible to remove the context of recent events and a tepid showing suggests Marley, who takes charge of next month’s World Cup qualifiers before a permanent decision is made in December, has a considerable refocusing job on her hands.
Marley has built her reputation with England’s age-group sides but her first teamsheet saw a reversion to two seasoned campaigners, with record cap-holder Fara Williams and fellow midfielder Jill Scott recalled in place of Jade Moore and the injured Fran Kirby.
Genuine chances were at a premium, Jodie Taylor floating a shot over from 20 yards and Steph Houghton’s well-timed block snuffing out Valerie Gauvin’s effort at the other end.
France briefly entertained with a dead-ball routine that saw their runners jogging in a circle before peeling off to attack the cross, but the dreadful delivery rendered their creation moot.
Ines Juarena did better with her final ball in the 32nd minute, picking out Gauvin who glanced a header towards the far post. For a moment it threatened to skip inside the net but Chamberlain did well to tip round the post.
England were brighter at the start of the second half, Lucy Bronze and Toni Duggan coming to the fore, but needed another intervention from their keeper on the hour.
Eugenie Le Sommer, after one of several incisive runs, unleashed a long-range shot that looked goalbound until Chamberlain, possibly unsighted, made a scrambling save.
Two substitutes combined as England appealed for a penalty five minutes from time, Nikita Parris claiming her ankles had been clipped as she tried to latch on to Isobel Christiansen’s cut-back. That shout went unanswered and calamity was close behind. Chamberlain rose to claim an injury-time cross but let it sail clear, allowing Asseyi to poke home.