Hege Riise's second game in charge of England Women ended in a 3-1 friendly defeat by France Women, despite an entertaining encounter in Caen.
France started the game quicker, showing plenty of pace on the wings as they pinned back England's defence, who were without their captain Steph Houghton.
It was the impressive Sandy Baltimore who broke the deadlock for France in the 32nd minute with a curling left-foot effort into the top right corner, leaving Ellie Roebuck with no chance to reach it.
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France doubled their lead just after the hour mark as Rachel Daly conceded a penalty after bringing down Elisa de Almeida inside the area. It was up to substitute Viviane Asseyi, who had only been on the pitch for three minutes, to coolly slot in for the hosts, sending Roebuck the wrong way.
England rallied as Lauren Hemp and Lotte Wubben-Moy were introduced in the 65th minute and Hemp made an immediate impact, winning a penalty in the 78th minute as she was brought down by Marion Torrent. Pauline Peyraud-Magnin was finally beaten by Fran Kirby who slotted in from the spot.
Within minutes, Keira Walsh struck the post from just inside the box as England looked to snatch a quick equaliser. But it was France who were able to capitalise on the counter-attack, Kadidiatou Diani squaring the ball for Marie-Antoinette Katoto for the tap in on the 81st minute.
Riise's side were unable to find any answers in the last 10 minutes as a determined France saw out the game, with the Lionesses now turning their attentions to another international friendly with Canada on Tuesday.
How France saw off England
It was a fast start for both sides, and each could have scored an early opener. Baltimore pinged a wonderful effort off the post, before Beth Mead forced a save from Peyraud-Magnin after an intelligent run from Kirby.
France should have gone ahead after the 20-minute mark as England failed to clear a corner. Roebuck - often so impressive in goal for Manchester City - failed to connect with a punch, but Jill Scott nodded the ball back. But it only landed as far as Katoto, who just lifted her effort over the crossbar.
England team news
- Striker Ellen White captained England in Steph Houghton’s absence.
- Demi Stokes and Lucy Bronze did not travel to France as both are having their minor injuries monitored to ensure they can play in the next friendly against Canada on Tuesday.
Right on the half an hour, England thought they had taken the lead. It was some superb play from Beth Mead, slotting through for Ellen White to turn home but the Man City striker was well offside and the flag was up. Mere minutes later, and France went ahead. It was a stunning, curling strike from the impressive Baltimore, firing into the top right corner.
In an incredibly open first half, England continued to test the goalkeeper - Kirby and Nikita Parris both forcing low saves from Peyraud-Magnin. France should have doubled their lead in added time, but Everton striker Valerie Gauvin lashed an effort over the face of goal from close range. Parris then fired just wide as the half-time whistle blew.
Niamh Charles was handed her debut as she came on at half time along with Man City's Chloe Kelly as England tried to atone for their first-half misses.
England had some half chances early in the opening 15 minutes, but it was France who had the best chance just after the hour. Baltimore made a driving run through midfield before slotting Katoto through, but she forced a superb save from Roebuck. Kadidiatou Diani then smashed an effort off the top of the crossbar with a thumping effort.
And just seconds later, France were awarded a penalty. Daly went bundling into De Almeida, as the French shouts went up for a spot-kick. The referee came over, looking to be drawing a card, but diffused the situation before discussing the decision with her linesman. She soon pointed to the spot - despite England's protests - and substitute Asseyi slotted the penalty home.
In the 78th minute, England were awarded their own penalty as the lively Hemp was pushed over by Torrent. It was a well-taken penalty from Kirby too, sending Peyraud-Magnin the wrong way, continuing her fine club form with England.
The goal gave England a spark and they should have equalised a few minutes later. Hemp made another sensational, driving run down the left before cutting the ball back for Keira Walsh. However, she could only place her effort onto the upright, with France then driving down the other end of the field to restore their two-goal lead.
Charles was beaten by the run of Diani before flashing a squaring a cross into the area. Katoto was waiting in the six-yard box to slot home, sucker-punching England in their best spell of the game.
The Lionesses pushed for another goal for the remainder of the game though, showing signs of fight under Riise as she continues to ponder her Olympic squad.
Analysis: Lack of clinical edge cost England
Courtney Sweetman Kirk told Sky Sports News:
"The lack of clinical nature was the big issue compared to France. In terms of France, their strength in depth is incredible, the lack of first-team players didn't seem to bother them, whereas I think it hindered England especially in the back four. They looked shaky and France going forward, with their dynamism and pace, England just really struggled to deal with that.
"I appreciate there's been a lot of change for the squad and going forward into the Canada game it will give them more of an idea of where the squad are at. I think Lauren Hemp was fantastic when she came on, she changed the game, I was surprised not to see her start. So I wouldn't be surprised if she does start against Canada for her club form she has been fantastic.
"But know the overriding feeling for me is just not clinical enough for England. They had 15 shots on goal and only 6 on target so that's got to improve, but maybe it's just one of those days in the office. They've not played together for a long time since Northern Ireland, they are lacking match fitness and playing together.
"So hopefully the game against Canada will remedy that and going forward they will be able to get the ball in the back of the net."
England will play another international friendly on Thursday, hosting Canada Women at the Bet365 Stadium in Stoke; kick-off 7.15pm. Hege Riise will then name her Team GB squad for the Olympics next month.