by Darrell Allen (21/7/22)
Above: England joy after the sensational comeback win over Spain in Brighton last night. Photo: Lionesses.
Following the total breeze of Group A which saw three wins, 14 goals, and none conceded, the Lionesses faced their first major test for some time. What a test it was as Spain were outstanding for 70 minutes of this contest and nullified any England threat.
Lauren Hemp and Fran Kirby two of England’s greatest forces were well shackled on a night of great challenge for the host nation. As it their wont, Spain were there to frustrate and England hearts sank when Gonzalez scored nine minutes after the interval.
It looked a game too far for Beth Mead also as the Arsenal star struggled to get into this contest and was substituted accordingly on 58 minutes.
However England found a way as Ella Toone popped up on 84 minutes and Georgia Stanway became the nation’s latest icon with an extra time rocket to set up a semi-final date in Sheffield on Tuesday.
A Tactical Masterclass
In all seriousness, Spain were heading through, they had done the ultimate job on England. Being difficult to play against, they frustrated the hosts and got the goal they needed. England were on the floor, hopes of progression in this tournament were disappearing before their eyes.
It was the perfect away performance by Spain. Had Sarina Wiegman not been present they may very well have probably progressed. However, we saw the true masterclass of all proportions as Wiegman rang the changes and got them absolutely spot on.
Toone and Russo were the most influential of the lot and the latter found the former and England were level.
Georgia Stanway then had the stage all to herself as she glided towards goal and was walking on water it seemed, as she stroll through an open door and promptly blasted in to win the tie.
Wiegman’s substitutes were key and they absolutely delivered to get England back in the game.
The Kelly and Greenwood Influence
The other substitutes from Wiegman who deserve a mention are Chloe Kelly and Alex Greenwood
Kelly replaced the out-of-sorts Mead just before the hour and was superb from the moment she was introduced. Greenwood replaced Rachel Daly on 84 minutes and promptly assured the back line.
These tweaks restored some assurance and provided calmness as the pair were superb across the remainder of the action.
Russo Pushing to Start
With three goals in the two matches against Norway and Northern Ireland, Russo is beginning to give Wiegman a true selection dilemma. These are the thoughts Wiegman will have to have between now and Tuesday and come to the solution best suited for the semi-final to come.
Player of the match and rightly so was Millie Bright. The Chelsea stalwart was influential in ensuring Spain were limited to just the one goal.
Bright commanded the defence all evening and when your backs are against the wall it is often defenders who make the headlines. The Derbyshire-born star was outstanding and will be required again on Tuesday when an equally tough challenge awaits against Belgium or Sweden.
A player for the biggest of moments and greatest of occasions is Georgia Stanway. That penalty back on 11th July against Norway saw England off to a flyer in that 8-0 demolition.
Last night was just the same as Barrow-born Stanway delivered in the biggest moment, a 96th-minute stunner of a strike measured at 57.23 MPH and from a distance of 23.2 yards that ended up hitting the net in 0.83 seconds from the moment Stanway connected with the ball, was an extraordinary moment to send England into the Semi Final.
Sweden or Belgium Await
Following sealing the Semi Final place, thoughts now turn to who England will face the winners of the Sweden against Belgium Quarter Final which takes place at Leigh Sports Village on Friday night.
Sweden will be favourites, but Belgium surprised some by qualifying from their group. They will fancy themselves causing another upset.
Teams: ENGLAND (4-2-3-1): Earps, Bronze, Bright, Williamson, Daly, Walsh, Stanway, Mead, Kirby, Hemp, White. Subs: Greenwood, Carter, Stokes, Scott, Parris, Kelly, England, Toone, Roebuck, Wubben-Moy, Russo.
Scorers: Toone 84′, Stanway 96′
SPAIN: (4-1-4-1) Panos, Battle, Parades, Leon, Carmona, Bonmati, Guijarro Abelleira, Cardona, Gonzalez, Caldentey. Subs: Gallardo Núñez, Aleixandri, Andrés, Guerrero, del Castillo,Sarriegi, Ouahabi, García, Pereira, García, Pina, Rodríguez Rivero.
Scorer: Gonzalez 64′.
Referee: Stephanie Frappart.