What a Finnish!

Some ballsy decision-making from Hope Powell - and a draw between favourites Sweden and Denmark - gave England the initiative in group A, with a 3-2 win over Finland at the City of Manchester stadium tonight.

Powell tore up her expected teamsheet to field Kelly Smith, still recovering from injury and a fair way off being match fit, and 17-year-old Karen Carney, in the place of the more experienced Jody Handley in midfield.

Brave decisions with which to begin a home challenge for England's first major trophy, but certainly the right ones: Smith provided the midfield with purpose, drive and power, while Carney matched Rachel Yankey, on the opposite flank and by contrast the team's most capped player, for scintillating runs which left flummoxed Finns in their wake.

And it was Carney who provided England with the win after late pressure from Finland put them back on level terms – calmly picking her spot and side-footing home after Eniola Aluko's shot rebounded off Satu Kunnas in goal.

England, perhaps buoyed by the news that Johanna Rasmussen's goal had held group favourites Sweden to a draw in Blackpool earlier [and certainly buoyed by an all-time European record crowd of 29,092], looked menacing from the start, their physical approach to the game - Smith and Katie Chapman in particular - unsettling Finland, who failed to muster too many shots on Jo Fletcher's goal in the first half.

It took England 18 minutes to take the lead, Carney's surging run forcing a foul from Evelina Sarapaa, and she took the resulting free-kick from the left-hand corner that trickled past Kunnas, thanks to a touch from captain Sanna Valkonen.

England had already produced several dangerous moments in the box and continued in that vein – Fara Williams, who drifted in and out of the game, trying her luck from the edge of area; and Amanda Barr surging towards the byline to almost put Yankey in.

And it was Barr who produced England's second goal shortly before half-time, after Smith's distance shot came back off the bar. The Birmingham City striker's header was mistimed but somehow found it's way over Kunnas and – apparently -into the goal.

There was some indecision from the officials but eventually the goal was given. Finland coach Michael Kald said he didn't see it, Powell didn't care particularly as long as it was given, and Finnish midfielder Anne Makinen insisted it was offside anyway.

So Finland weren't happy, but they came out for the second half looking a better side, while England missed the physical presence of Smith, who was substituted for Emily Westwood in a bid to preserve her fitness for the rest of the tournament.

Within 11 minutes of the restart Finland found their first goal, Anna-Kaisa Rantanen drilling the ball through two of her own players to leave Jo Fletcher unsighted and flailing.

England survived a couple of scares from set pieces, and were grateful to see an Anne Makinen free-kick sail over the bar, before looking like taking the game, Carney earning and taking two free-kicks in succession – Kunnas only just able to tip the second over.

And substitute Eniola Aluko might have added to her only goal for England after being put through one on one by Yankey – only she went round the keeper; the ball did not.

It was Finland who scored next, though, a mix-up in the England defence allowing Laura Kalmari an easy header from six yards and for all the world this looked to be a draw – a result England could not have helped being disappointed with.

Thank goodness then for Carney, who proved exactly why Powell had banked on her services. A great finish and England are in pole position going into Wednesday's match against Denmark.