From Elland Road – England whet supporters’ appetite for Euro 2022 with a thumping 5-1 victory over reigning European champions Netherlands at a raucous Elland Road on Friday evening – the Lionesses’ final friendly on home soil before the tournament kicks off on 6 July.
The two sides – who are both fancied to go deep at this summer’s championships – had played out a tightly contested encounter in the opening 50 minutes. But with the scores delicately poised at 1-1 after Lucy Bronze had cancelled out Lieke Martens’ header, Sherida Spitse missed a spot kick, and England went up the other end and took the lead through Beth Mead. Ella Toone, Lauren Hemp and a second from Mead added extra flourish on the scoreline as the Lionesses ultimately ran out emphatic winners.
The Netherlands had opened the scoring through Martens, who rose highest to head home Spitse’s corner after 22 minutes.
The goal seemed to spark the Lionesses into life, and they began to enjoy more possession in the Netherlands half, before levelling the scores on 32 minutes – in slightly fortuitous circumstances. Fran Kirby’s slightly miss-hit pass found Bronze, and her sliced cross inadvertently found the top corner.
The Netherlands were given the opportunity to retake the lead in the second half after Alex Greenwood was belatedly penalised by VAR for bringing down Danielle van de Donk. However, Spitse couldn’t add a goal to her assist to mark her 200th appearance, finding the outside of the post from 12 yards out.
It proved to be a sliding doors moment, and within a minute England had the ball in the back of the net. Hemp latched onto Keira Walsh’s superb ball in behind, and her inch perfect cross was buried by substitute Mead.
Fellow substitute Toone added a third with 20 minutes remained, carving out the opening herself with a clever feint, before her curling effort squirmed underneath Sari van Veenendaal.
Two minutes later, it was four. Toone again was at the heart of the action, cracking the post from inside the box, before the ball eventually found its way to Hemp, and the England winger sent a sweetly struck volley into the back of the net.
Mead slammed home from close range on the stroke of full time after the Netherlands failed to clear as the Lionesses wrapped up a statement victory over one of Europe’s very best.
GK: Mary Earps – 6/10 – Made a good stop with her feet to keep out Beerensteyn. Sound with the ball at her feet.
RB: Lucy Bronze – 7/10 – Made a crucial last ditch tackle to keep out Beerensteyn, levelled the scores somewhat accidentally with a sliced cross-come-shot.
CB: Millie Bright – 5/10 – Sloppily conceded possession in her own box in the build up to the Netherlands’ opener. Caught out in behind on a couple of occasions with the pace of the visitors’ front three.
CB: Alex Greenwood – 5/10 – Drew a save from van Veenendaal with a smart, low free kick. Conceded a penalty with a foul on Van de Donk after the Netherlands’ midfielder beat her for pace.
LB: Rachel Daly – 7/10 – Made an important last ditch tackle to keep out Pelova in the first half as the Netherlands midfielder charged towards goal.
CM: Leah Williamson – 7/10 – Cool and calm in tight spaces and always an option for the back four. Moved to centre back for the final half an hour.
CM: Keira Walsh – 8/10 – Out-jumped by Martens as the Netherlands’ winger gave the hosts the lead. Instrumental in England’s second, picking out Hemp with a fabulous pass in behind. Grew into the game and was oozing confidence by the end.
AM: Fran Kirby – 6/10 – Teed up Bronze for England’s equaliser after picking up a loose ball in a pocket of space. Her first start since February for club or country, showed flashes that she’s on the way back to her best.
RW: Chloe Kelly – 6/10 – Grew into the game and got the better of Wilms on a couple of occasions towards the latter stages of the first half, picking out a couple of dangerous crosses. Replaced at half time.
ST: Beth England – 5/10 – Came within a whisker of making contact with a Daly flick on in the six yard area, but otherwise largely starved of service.
LW: Lauren Hemp – 8/10 – An unusually subdued first half as she struggled to get in the game. All change in the second; created England’s second goal, bursting past Janssen and picking out Mead. Added a fourth with a sweet, sweet volley. The Lionesses were at their best when she was involved.
SUB: Beth Mead – 8/10 – On the scoresheet with one of her first touches of the game, drifting into the box and connecting cleanly with Hemp’s cross, and added another well taken goal as the clock ticked down.
SUB: Alessia Russo – 6/10 – Cracked the bar in stoppage time following a clever run off the shoulder.
SUB: Georgia Stanway – 6/10
SUB: Ella Toone – 8/10 – Only on the pitch 25 minutes, but managed to hit the post and get herself on the scoresheet. Really lively.
SUB: Jess Carter – 6/10
GK: Sari van Veenendaal – 5/10 – Couldn’t have done much about England’s first two goals, but allowed Toone’s effort to squirm under her body for England’s third.
RB: Lynn Wilms – 5/10 – Had been doing a really effective defensive job on the usually destructive Hemp in the first half, rarely allowing her to turn and charge towards goal – until being beaten for pace by the England winger in the build up to the hosts’ second and losing the battle agains the England winger.
CB: Aniek Nouwen – 5/10 – Sound defensively in the first half, looked shakier in the second with the presence of van de Gragt.
CB: Stefanie van de Gragt – 7/10 – Sound defensively, hardly gave Beth England an inch. Replaced at half time, and her side conceded three in her absence.
LB: Dominique Janssen – 5/10 – Had a good battle with Kelly in the first half, lost the run of Mead for England’s second.
CM: Sherida Spitse – 6/10 – Provided the set piece delivery from which the Netherlands opened the scoring – a decent way to mark her 200th (200th!!) international appearance. Clipped the post with a penalty.
CM: Jackie Groenen – 5/10 – Slipped and conceded possession in the buildup to England’s equaliser.
CM: Victoria Pelova – 6/10 – Made a few advanced runs from deep to get beyond Beerensteyn, and alternated with Roord on the right flank on a couple of occasions.
RW: Jill Roord – 6/10 – Typified the Netherlands’ dynamic forward line, occasionally dropping into midfield, occasionally pulling wide and stretching the England backline. But unable to have any real telling attacking impact on proceedings.
ST: Lineth Beerensteyn – 6/10 – Denied twice in the first half, first by a Bronze block and then by the feet of Earps. Changed it up by coming deep and pulling long. Replaced after an hour.
LW: Lieke Martens – 7/10 – Gave the Netherlands the lead by evading Walsh and flicking home a header from a corner. Replaced at half time.
SUB: Danielle van de Donk – 6/10
SUB: Caitlin Dijkstra – 5/10
SUB: Vivianne Miedema – 5/10
SUB: Esmee Brugts – 5/10
SUB: Damaris Egurrola – 5/10