England confirmed their 2019 World Cup place in France by beating Wales 3-0 in Newport.
There were early warning signs for Wales to contend with when Nikita Parris had her goal wrongly disallowed for offside after just 6 minutes.
Helen Ward had Wales’ best strike of the first half, but could only place the ball into the hands of Karen Bardsley.
Wales were denied a penalty in the 35th minute when Kayleigh Green was brought down in the 18 yard box by the England goalkeeper, but only after she managed to put a glove to the ball to concede a corner.
The Lionesses enjoyed most of the possession in the first 45 minutes, but failed to make it count after having a number of corners and free kicks in dangerous areas.
With great testament to the home side, Wales were well organised and extremely compact when they were out of possession, and successfully stopped England finding a clear route to score.
Jess Fishlock and Angharad James were a wonderful partnership in the middle of the park but didn’t see enough of the ball to hurt England.
The Welsh women hadn’t conceded a goal for 687 minutes during this qualifying campaign but eleven minutes into the second half, Toni Duggan put that magnificent record to an end.
After failing to clear a cross from the right, Duggan was able to punish the poor Welsh defending from 10 yards out.
Three minutes later, O’Sullivan made a terrific save to deny Steph Houghton’s curling free kick from hitting the back of the net.
However, England punished Wales from the corner that followed, this time with a looping header from star player, Jill Scott to make it 0-2 just before the hour mark.
Jayne Ludlow tried to shift things around by moving the ever-present Natasha Harding to a more attacking wide role on the right side.
But on 68 minutes, England struck their third goal of the second half from another set piece, after Nikita Parris successfully capitalised on Laura O’Sullivan’s spill in the 6 yard box.
There was one last attack for Wales before the final whistle blew. Kayleigh Green’s unbelievable work rate continued into injury time when she played a through ball to substitute Peyton Sophia Vincze, but was quickly flagged by the assistant for offside.
Wales were left heartbroken at full time, failing to win Group 1 after such an admiring team effort to reach the finals in France. They have inspired a new generation to take up sport in Wales and for that, the whole nation is incredibly proud.
All hope is not completely lost; Wales can still qualify for the play-offs if they are one of four ‘best second placed teams’.
As it stands, two second placed teams already have more points than Wales. All eyes will be on Groups 4, 5, 6 & 7 in the coming days to see if 17 points will be enough.
Jayne Ludlow after full time:
“Tonight we weren’t good enough, we have to be good enough for 90 minutes and in the future, we will be.
“We saw glimpses of the next stage, so the next campaign will be one that we are looking forward to immensely.
“We’ve come up against a top nation tonight and you can see why they qualify for every tournament.
“The reality is we’re 29th [in the world rankings] and they’re 4th. For 90 minutes in future we need to be better.”