England 2-1 China: Fran Kirby hits winner for Mark Sampson's side

Fran Kirby
England gave a solid but unconvincing display in front of 5,665 fans at Manchester City's Academy Stadium

England faded after a strong start to beat China in their final home friendly before they head to the World Cup.

Mark Sampson's side went ahead within 59 seconds after Jodie Taylor swept in Fran Kirby's curling pass before Kirby fired in from Jordan Nobbs' cross.

China replied after 17 minutes when England defended poorly from a corner and Wang Shanshan poked in.

And as England stuttered in the second half they almost conceded late on when Wang missed her kick from close range.

In front of 5,665 fans at Manchester City's Academy Stadium, it was a solid if unconvincing display from Sampson's side, who begin their World Cup campaign against France in Moncton on 6 June.

And against a team 10 places below them at 16th in Fifa's rankings and who have not won in 10 games, there were several scares as the 1999 World Cup runners-up improved after the break.

Fran Kirby
Fran Kirby set up England's first goal before scoring the second

After winning the Cyprus Cup last month, England have now gone five games unbeaten since losing to the top two sides in the world - Germany and United States.

Sampson is expected to name his 23-player squad on 11 May and he challenged his players to show their value before they leave for Canada. Front pair Taylor and Kirby, who was arguably England's best player before being substituted in the second half, got the message.

Except for the injured Karen Carney, Sampson made only one change to the side which beat Canada in the Cyprus Cup final but some of the fringe players did not join the front duo in accepting the England manager's gauntlet.

Kirby replaced Lianne Sanderson up front and she made an immediate impact by collecting a flick-on, tearing down the left flank and shaping the ball into Taylor for a first-time finish from 12 yards.

Reading striker Kirby, who almost quit football when she was younger, led England's charge as they pressed from the front and the hosts' superior energy led to a second after 10 minutes.

This time Kirby crashed in at the near post following a Jordan Nobbs right-wing cross. It could have been 3-0 four minutes later when Jade Moore hit the post after Chinese goalkeeper Zhang Yue's clearance fell straight to the England midfielder.

By that stage, China's poor defending looked like it might contribute to a rout but England gifted a goal back when they failed to clear a deep corner as Wang nodded in from close range.

China, who have built a young team since failing to qualify for the 2011 World Cup, then settled into the game and Li Dongna tested Siobhan Chamberlain with a long-range free-kick.

As England became complacent with their passing, there were more scares for the England goalkeeper as Claire Rafferty almost turned into her own net from Wang's left-wing cross before the Chinese attacker miscued.

Ellen White came on for her 50th cap late on, but it was a disjointed display from England and they will need to improve against one of the World Cup favourites France in two months' time.

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