England 3-2 Netherlands: Lionesses produce scintillating second half performance at Wembley Stadium

Needing to emerge victorious to stand any chance of competing at the 2024 Olympics in Paris under the accreditation of Great Britain, England manager Sarina Wiegman replaced her injured captain Millie Bright in the heart of the Lionesses’ defence with Chelsea teammate Jess Carter.

Meanwhile ,at the summit of Group A1 and in prime position to qualify for the semi-finals of the inaugural 2023/24 UEFA Women’s Nations League competition, the Netherlands named a strong starting eleven as Barclays Women’s Super League-based players Daphne van Domselaar, Victoria Pelova and Jill Roord all started the game at Wembley Stadium.

ENG: Earps, Bronze, Greenwood, Carter, Charles; Stanway, Walsh, Kirby; Kelly, James, Hemp

NED: van Domselaar; Pelova, Dijkstra, Janssen, Brugts; Spitse, Casparij, Groenen, van de Donk; Roord, Martens, Beerensteyn

A bumper crowd of 71,632 inside of Wembley Stadium honoured the life of Terry Venables with a minute’s applause shortly before kick-off, following the passing of the former England manager last weekend.

Down on the pitch, England began in assertive fashion as only the fingertips of an acrobatic Daphne van Domselaar denied Chloe Kelly the game’s opening goal.

However, the Netherlands would break the deadlock against the run of play in the 12th minute, as Lineth Beerensteyn brilliantly kept the ball away from the retreating defenders before composing herself to fire a sublimely-struck strike past deputising England captain Mary Earps.

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The visitors threatened to then double their lead moments later, however, Daniëlle van de Donk’s effort from the fringes of the penalty area flew aimlessly wide of the post.

Andries Jonker’s side’s mini-spell of dominance in front of goal continued at the home of English football as Jill Roord’s cheeky dipping effort glanced against the paintwork of the crossbar. Nonetheless, England remained positive as the game surpassed the half-hour mark, with the in-form figure of Lauren James firing a promising-looking effort wide of van Domselaar’s left-hand post.

Despite that, and already with an eye for getting her name onto the scoresheet, Beerensteyn doubled her and the Netherlands’ tally in the 35th minute, as the Juventus forward expertly found the back of the net via the diminishing gap between a bound-to-be-disappointed Earps and the near post.

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With a two-goal deficit to make up, Sarina Wiegman called upon the services of the 2022 European Championship Golden Boot winner Beth Mead at half time for her first appearance on the international stage since suffering a devastating anterior cruciate ligament injury while playing for Arsenal in November last year.

Mead’s introduction, and the England manager’s customary motivational half-time team talk seemed to do the job, as Georgia Stanway headed the Lionesses back into the game, via James’ delicious delivery into the danger zone, shortly before the hour mark.

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Unbelievably, England got themselves back on level terms less than two minutes later, as Lauren Hemp exquisitely passed the ball beyond van Domselaar into the corner of the net from the edge of the area.

Looking like a completely different side in front of goal in the second half, England came close to taking the lead for the first time in the 71st minute as Keira Walsh fired straight at van Domselaar.

In sensational style, second-half substitute Ella Toone won it for England in stoppage-time, as the Manchester United midfielder confidently fired past van Domselaar to send the majority in attendance at Wembley Stadium into euphoric celebrations.

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An unforgettable night for the Lionesses means Wiegman’s side will qualify for the semi-finals of the 2023/24 UEFA Women’s Nations League campaign if they beat Scotland at Hampden Park on Tuesday and the Netherlands are defeated on home soil by the hand of Belgium.