ANTONIO LAMORTE / AIPS in BREDA*: Every pass became more uncertain, every save more risky, every piece of skill more complicated.
The storm which broke over the Rat Verlegh stadium during England’s 2-0 win over Spain at UEFA Women’s EURO 2017 compromised the technical quality of the game but not the level of the football.
England won thanks to a goal in each half from Fran Kirby and Jodie Taylor and need only a draw in their concluding Group D game against Portugal – 2-0 winners over Scotland – in Tilburg on Thurday to secure a place in the quarter-finals. Spain, simultaneously, must pursue a victory over the Scots in Deventer.
Spain began well with a dangerous effort by Vicky Losada after only 40 seconds. But less than one minute later came the key moment of the match as Kirby benefited from a huge gap in the Spanish defence to open the scoring.
The goal forced Spain to go in search of recovery, playing their typical tiki-taka football, while England responded with disciplined defending and threatening counter attacks.
At Euro 2013 Spain beat England 3-2 but 10 months ago a friendly between England and Spain ended 2-1 for the Lionesses.
This time, again, the more pragmatic English approach prevailed.
This was not a match for delicate footwork. Rain poured down, especially during the first half and diluted the talent of Jennifer Hermoso and the ideas of Jordan Nobbs.
England won their match in defence thanks to the performances of Lucy Bronze and and Millie Bright above all. Bright might even have scored but was denied a goal in the fifth minute by a narrow offside decision.
In the first half Spain created only two more opportunities while England captain Steph Houghton wasted an opportunity from inside the penalty box in the 10th minute.
The second half was tight, apart from a penalty firstly awarded to Spain and then retracted by Italian referee Carolina Vitulano in the 74th minute.
Substitutions did not change the trend of the match and, in the 89th minute, a delicate touch from Jordan Nobbs freed Taylor to score her fourth goal in two games.
England ended by confirming their favourites’ potential as a mature and cohesive team. Spain will need more than tiki-taka to claim ultimate victory.
** AIPS is the international sports journalists’ association with 10,000 members worldwide and which is currently running a Young Reporters project in the Netherlands with the cooperation and support of European federation UEFA. More information at www.AIPSmedia.com