Algarve Cup
Scotland 0-1 Canada
Friday, 1 March 2019, kick-off 1.15pm
Estadio Municipal de Lagos, Portugal

Canada: Sinclair (80 pen)

A penalty from Canada captain Christine Sinclair proved to be the difference in Scotland’s first competitive fixture of 2019, as Shelley Kerr’s side found themselves edged out 1-0 by their opponents in their Algarve Cup opener.

In their first fixture at the tournament since 2002, Scotland produced a gutsy performance against higher-ranked opposition yet ultimately came away empty-handed from a hard-fought encounter.

It was a bright start from the SWNT, Kerr’s players looking comfortable in possession under the Portuguese sunshine. Their early endeavours yielded the first opportunity of the game after eight minutes, as a stinging Erin Cuthbert volley forced a save from Canada goalkeeper Erin McLeod.

The Scotland midfield duo of Kim Little and Caroline Weir were dictating the opening quarter, controlling the central area of the field as they looked to unlock the Canadian defence. A ball over the top saw Claire Emslie race free, with McLeod having to be on her toes to close down the Manchester City winger’s opportunity.

Claire Emslie

Emslie turned defender as the game approached the half-hour mark, producing a last-minute block to deny Allysha Chapman.

Just moments later, the Canadians forced Lee Alexander into her first save of the afternoon, Jordyn Huitema’s shot from close range comfortably gathered by the Scotland goalkeeper.

At the other end, an improvised effort from Nicola Docherty sailed just over the Canadian crossbar after Jen Beattie had flicked a free-kick in the direction of her fellow defender.

Both sides continued to look to unlock the opposing defence, as the tempo of the match continued to build. A quick free-kick from Canada saw Christine Sinclair break into the Scotland penalty area, but the Canadian captain’s effort sailed over the crossbar.

The tournament’s top-ranked side were beginning to control proceedings and worked a gilt-edged chance to open the scoring as the half drew to a close, as Chapman’s through ball sent Huitema through one-on-one with Alexander. Scotland’s goalkeeper stayed strong in the face of the onrushing striker, however, producing a brilliant save to keep the match goalless and send the two teams in level at the interval.

The second half began in the same manner as the first, as both sides sought an early breakthrough. Defences remained on top, however, Scotland centre-back pairing Beattie and Rachel Corsie looking composed in front of Alexander.

With Canada doing the majority of the pressing at the beginning of the second stanza, Scotland’s best hope appeared to be on the break. Cuthbert was making a nuisance of herself in and amongst the Canadian defensive trio, enjoying a running battle with Kadeisha Buchanan in midfield.

Scotland’s defence needed to be alert once more on 70 minutes, as Sinclair’s lay-off teed up Diana Matheson on the edge of the box. Docherty’s diving block prevented the opportunity from developing further, however, before Alexander rushed off her line to deny Adriana Leon on the follow-up.

Cuthbert continued to look like the player most likely to find a breakthrough for Scotland, the Chelsea striker flashing a shot just wide from 40 yards.

Erin Cuthbert

Yet with 80 minutes gone, the fifth-ranked side in the world finally opened the scoring. Ashley Lawrence was brought down in the penalty area by Chloe Arthur, allowing Sinclair to fire the resulting spot-kick past Alexander for her 179th goal in international football.

Canada immediately went back on the offensive once more as they looked to put the game beyond doubt. Scotland’s defence was once again up to the test, though, as Alexander made a smart save from Sinclair’s header to keep her side’s hopes alive.

Those hopes were inches away from being realised in injury time. An in-swinging free-kick from Weir found the boot of Corsie, with the Scotland captain’s effort agonisingly close to sneaking inside the post for the equaliser.

The final whistle was blown soon after, as Kerr’s side ran out of time in their pursuit of an equaliser. The squad’s attention now turns to the meeting with Iceland on Monday, a match that will determine the final standings ahead of next week’s seeding matches.

Scotland: Alexander; Arthur, Corsie (capt), Beattie, Docherty; Weir, Little; Emslie (Ness 89), Cuthbert, Lauder (Arnot 58); Ross (C Murray 58).

Subs not used: Lynn, Fife, Smith, Love, Crichton, J Murray, Fr Brown, Harrison, Fi Brown.

Canada: McLeod; Schmidt, Buchanan, Zadorsky; Beckie, Scott (Grosso 75), Lawrence, Fleming, Chapman (Matheson 45, Carle 90+1); Huitema (Leon 65), Sinclair (capt).

Subs not used: Labbé, Sheridan, Woeller, Agnew, Hellstrom, Quinn, Rose, Prince.