KEIR RADNEDGE at WEMBLEY —- One year after England’s men fell a penalty kick short in their European Championship final the women brought it home in achieving their own Wembley triumph by defeating Germany 2-1 after extra time.
Match-winner was Chloe Kelly in the second half of extra time whose first goal in international football could not have been timed more perfectly. Earlier England had grabbed the the lead midway through the second half through substitute Ella Toone only to be taken to the extra halfhour by an equaliser by Lina Magull.
England’s players danced their way through the celebrations. The evening was theirs but, beyond that, an even greater winner was the overall cause of women’s football.
Six-goal top scorer Beth Mead was named player of the tournament by UEFA with Germany’s Lena Oberdorf hailed as best young player. Hardly surprisingly she was not a picture of delight on being presented with the award.
Coach Sarina Wiegman thus repeated with England the title-winning triumph she had managed with her own host nation Netherlands five years ago. This was an England national team’s first major prize since the men won the World Cup in 1966 – also against German opposition and also in extra time.
Germany had taken to the pitch in front of a Euro record 87,192 attendance determined to regain the European crown they had ceded five years earlier in Netherlands. They had won it eight times, including in 2009 when they despatched England 6-2 on the only previous occasion the Lionesses had reached the final.
They were the better team for several passages in a feisty collision between the two most outstanding teams in a tournament which set all sorts of attendance and television viewing figures. In the end, however, they will regret the warm-up injury which cost them the services of their top-scoring centre-forward Alex Popp.
Outstanding above all in a hard-working England team were goalkeeper Mary Earps and midfielder Keira Walsh.
Weight of history
England had entered the final with an empty trophy cabinet. They had been semi-finalists at the Women’s World Cup in 2015 and again at the European finals in 2017. The weight of pressure to break through was exacerbated by media reminders about the blank 56 years.
The final matched expectations of a tight game. Each team had conceded only one goal on the road to Wembley and Beth Mead and Alex Popp had been the joint top individual scorers with six goals apiece.
Wiegman named an unchanged team for the sixth successive match however Germany had no such comfort. First winger Klara Buhl was ruled out after Covid then they suffered an even more serious setback when Popp pulled out after pulling a muscle in the warm-up. Lea Schuller took her place but posed nothing like the same threat.
Germany made a positive start but the first opening fell to England when Ellen White should have done better, by her standards, than push a header to Fran Kirby’s left-wing cross into the waiting arms of keeper Merle Frohms. At the other end a fierce goal-bound drive by Sara Dabritz was blocked by Lucy Bronze.
Keeper to the rescue
The action – and irritation – ramped up. England forced three corners in three minutes and conceded bookings to Giorgia Stanway and White before captain Leah Williamson cleared off the goal-line after a corner so relieved keeper Earps could drop gratefully on the ball. A brief VAR review dismissed German claims for a penalty.
England gradually recovered their composure and pushed the ball around among themselves to lull the German defence into a false sense of complacency which White burst by darting on to a return from Mead and shooting narrowly over the bar.
Germany replaced the ineffective Brand in attack at halftime with Tabea Wassmuth and immediately took charge of the final.
Wassmuth should have opened the scoring after a slip by Millie Bright but, after angling in on goal, shot tamely into Earps’s arms. Moments later Magull wasted an even better chance, jabbing wide with only Earps to beat.
Wiegman answered the danger by replacing Fran Kirby and White with Ella Toone and Alessia Russo. Toone had barely touched the ball before she broke clear on to a superb though ball from Walsh and chipped Frohms to put England in front. The Lionesses were down to 10 players at the time with injured Mead off the pitch ahead of being replaced.
Germany might have equalised almost immediately but Earps tipped a drive from Magull against her left-hand post. The FC Bayern midfielder made amends in the 78th minute by stabbing home at close range a short right-wing cross to the near post from Wassmuth.
Hence, extra time.
Germany looked stronger in the first 15 minutes but England revived after the break and took the lead through Kelly in a goalmouth scramble after a right-wing corner by Laura Hemp.
Kelly swung at the loose ball and missed but it bounced back off a German defender and this time the Manchester City forward made no mistake to claim her first international goal.
England: Earps – Bronze, Bright, Williamson, Daly (Greenwood 88) – Stanway (Scott 88), Kirby (Toone 56), Walsh – Mead (Kelly 64), White (Russo 56), Hemp (Parris 119).
Germany: Frohms – Gwinn, Hendrich, Hegerling (Doorsoun 102), Rauch (Lattwein 113( – Magull (Dallmann 91), Oberdorf, Dabritz (Lohmann 73) – Huth, Schuller (Anyomi 67), Brand (Wassmuth 46).
Referee: Monzul (Ukr).
Player of the match: Walsh (Eng)
Player of the Tournament: Mead (Eng)
Young Player of the Tournament: Oberdorf (Ger).
Top scorers: Mead and Popp (Ger) each six goals.
Tale of the tournament
Group phase – Gp A: England 1, Austria 0; Norway 4, N Ireland 1 – Austria 2, N Ireland 0; England 8, Norway 0 — N Ireland 0, England 5; Austria 1, Norway 0. Final points England 9, Austria 6, Norway 3, N Ireland 0. Gp B: Spain 4, Finland 1; Germany 4, Denmark 0 — Denmark 1 Finland 0; Germany 2, Spain 0 — Finland 0, Germany 3; Denmark 0, Spain 1. Final points: Germany 9, Spain 6, Denmark 3, Finland 0. Gp C: Portugal 2, Switzerland 2; Netherlands 1, Sweden 1.– Sweden 2, Switzerland 1; Netherlands 3, Portugal 2 — Switzerland 1, Netherlands 4; Sweden 5, Portugal 0. Final points: Sweden 7, Netherlands 7, Switzerland 1, Portugal 1. Gp D: Belgium 1, Iceland 1; France 5, Italy 1 — Italy 1, Iceland 1; France 2, Belgium 1 — Iceland 1, France 1; Italy 0, Belgium 1. Final points: France 7, Belgium 4, Iceland 3, Italy 1.
Quarter-finals – England 2, Spain 1 aet – Germany 2, Austria 0 – Sweden 1, Belgium 0 – France 1, Netherlands 0 aet.
Semi-finals – England 4, Sweden 0 — Germany 2, France 1.
Final – England 2, Germany 1 after extra time (Wembley).