Despite missing four key players owing to continuing injury concerns, England completed their pre-Euro 2013 home fixtures with a fine performance that warranted more than a draw against the world champions and delighted the national coach, Hope Powell.
On the day that the Arsenal left-winger Rachel Yankey became the nation's most-capped international, going past the goalkeeper Peter Shilton's record of 125 appearances, Powell's team dominated at Burton. They opened the scoring with a goal straight out of Japan's tiki-taka textbook, a flowing 41st-minute move of one-touch passes completed with a crisp finish by the Chelsea striker Eniola Aluko.
But a dreadful error by the Liverpool midfielder Fara Williams, who inexplicably under-hit a pass straight to an opponent 30 yards from goal, led to the left-winger Nahomi Kawasumi equalising 14 minutes from time. England were then denied a last-minute winner by a marginal offside decision as the debutant Lucy Bronze's header found the net.
Powell said: "It was a really good test for us and I'm pleased that we competed well against the world champions. The girls are disappointed that we conceded a sloppy goal but hopefully we'll learn from it. We didn't win the game but we showed that we're difficult to beat and it was a decent result."
The captain Casey Stoney, the striker Kelly Smith, the winger Karen Carney and the full-back Steph Houghton were named as substitutes but none is fully recovered from injury and all stayed on the bench. "We're working with them and they're doing well," Powell said, "but we didn't want to load them today. We don't want to put people into a situation where they end up doing more damage. People do get injured, but we have a nice balance and lots of cover and we'll need it going into a major tournament.
"The nice thing was that a lot of the younger, less experienced players got game time and they managed themselves very well."
Powell and her players fly to Sweden on Monday for the Euro finals, which they kick off with a group game against Spain on 12 July. Before that, on 4 July, they face the home nation in a friendly hoping to go into the tournament on the back of a 12-match unbeaten run.
"Playing Sweden in front of a big crowd just before the tournament will be great preparation for us," Powell said. "Once the tournament gets under way the priority will be to get out of the group, but we plan to be in it as long as we can."
England (4-2-3-1): Bardsley (Lincoln); Susi (Chelsea; Bronze (Liverpool) 67), Bradley (Lincoln), Bassett (Birmingham City); Moore (Birmingham City) 67), A Scott (Arsenal); J Scott (Everton); Nobbs (Arsenal) 83), Asante (Gothenburg); Aluko (Chelsea; Clarke (Lincoln) 83), Williams (Liverpool), Yankey (Arsenal); White (Arsenal; Duggan (Everton) 83). Subs not used Brown-Finnis (Everton), Bonner (Liverpool), Carney (Birmingham City), Stoney (Lincoln), Smith (Arsenal), Houghton (Arsenal), Chamberlain (Bristol Academy).
Booked Williams, Moore.
Japan (4-4-2): Kaihori; Ariyoshi, Iwashimizu, Osafune (Tanaka, 89), Utsugi (Kamionobe, 64); Ando (Nakajima, 46), Sakaguchi, Kumagai, Kawasumi (Maruyama, 87); Ohno (Iwabuchi, 87), Ogimi.
Subs not used Fukumoto.
Referee L Andersson (Sweden)
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