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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 May 2006, 20:36 GMT 21:36 UK
England Women 2-0 Hungary Women
By Tony Leighton

England Women coach Hope Powell
England Women coach Hope Powell's team top qualifying Group Five
Goals from Vicky Exley and Alex Scott eased England to victory over Hungary in the Women's World Cup qualifying match at St Mary's Stadium.

Exley's 41st-minute free-kick gave Hope Powell's side the lead against a stubborn Hungary side.

England had to wait until the first minute of injury-time to make the game safe when Scott scored a back-post header from Sue Smith's cross.

England top qualifying Group Five with 16 points from six games.

The result also meant that the national team completed their first unbeaten season for 12 years.

National coach Powell had made five changes, three of them forced through player-unavailability, to the side that beat Austria 4-0 last month.

But that should not have made a great deal of difference against opponents who had conceded 28 goals and failed to score any in their previous five group games.

Instead England struggled to break down a team whose main aim was to keep the margin of defeat down to less than embarrassing proportions.

it's pleasing to have gone through the season unbeaten - it's been a slog but all the work we've put in has paid off
Coach Hope Powell
"Credit to Hungary," said Powell. "They defended well and we found it hard to break them down, but the girls persevered and in the end got their just rewards."

It took until the 40th minute for Doncaster Belles midfielder Exley to break the deadlock, driving home a 20 yard free-kick.

Exley, left winger Sue Smith and midfielder Anita Asante had all gone close with earlier efforts.

But a minute before Exley's goal, Hungary had almost taken a shock lead when striker Annett Nagy's 18 yard shot forced Rachel Brown into a fine diving save.

And 16 minutes into the second half Brown again had to dive full length, this time to keep out right winger Agnes Czuder's low cross-shot.

Chances were being wasted at the other end, however, striker Jody Handley and Scott both missing the target from inside the six-yard box.

Scott's miss came from a rebound after a tremendous 20 drive by substitute Lianne Sanderson had bounced off the underside of the bar.

Despite England continuing to dominate, the game had moved into stoppage time when Scott headed home the victory clincher.

England's lead will be pegged back to three points if France beat third in the table Holland on Saturday.

England's final two games are against the Dutch and the French, with only the winners of the group qualifying for China 2007.

"The others are chasing us at the moment," noted Powell, "but the group is wide open and there's everything to play for.

"We'll have a break now before starting to think about the Holland match, but it's pleasing to have gone through the season unbeaten.

"Credit to everyone involved - it's been a long, hard slog but all the work we've put in has paid off and we're in a good position to build on."



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