England’s performance against Spain is further proof that they are serious contenders
If England are going to conquer Europe then on occasion they will need lady luck on their side, and they got that in abundance against Spain last night as a bizarre late penalty incident helped them clinch victory.
England’s Ellen White appeared to handle the ball in the box late on and the referee pointed to the spot, giving Spain the chance to equalise following Fran Kirby’s opener, only to change her mind seconds later and let England the hook.
Minutes later Jodie Taylor rubbed salt into Spain’s wounds with her fourth goal of the tournament to seal the three points and push England towards the quarter-finals.
This performance was in sharp contrast to the demolition of Scotland on Wednesday, but it is further proof that they are serious contenders – after beating a tricky opponent more than capable of derailing any title bid.
A point against Portugal will secure a last-eight spot, and they will fancy their chances after overcoming the biggest hurdle in Group D.
Boss Mark Sampson unsurprisingly named an unchanged side from the one which hammered Scotland, but Spain were always likely to provide a far sterner test and they showed that from off as Arsenal midfielder Vicky Losada fired wide when she should have done far better from the edge of the box.
Crisis averted though, and within 60 seconds England were ahead as Ellen White picked up a loose ball 40 yards from goal and slipped a perfectly weighted pass through for Kirby – who made no mistake with an ice-cool finish.
The Lionesses, backed by a vocal crown in Breda, sensed they could put the game to bed early and attacked with gusto – with Kirby terrorising Spain with her vision and movement, as she linked up well again with Taylor.
And they thought they had a second ten minutes after Kirby’s strike, but Millie Bright’s towering header from Jordan Nobbs’ free-kick was ruled out for offside.
Spain seized the momentum back, and quickly took control with their famous pass-and-move style causing plenty of problems.
But La Roja, who enjoyed 76 per cent possession in the first half, were not helped by the biblical rain that came crashing down mid-way through the half.
Still, this was a fierce test of England’s defence, still lacking the experience of the injured Casey Stoney, but in the first half they passed with flying colours with their backs against the wall.
Spain upped the ante after the break, and cracks started to appear as Alexia Putellas forced Karen Bardsley into a finger-tip save from a glancing header but the penalty incident sucked the life out of their charge.
And Taylor finished superbly to secure the win, and send another statement of intent to the rest of the tournament.
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