England sent out a real statement of their Euro 2022 credentials by thrashing reigning champions Netherlands 5-1 in Leeds.
In front of 19,000 fans at a raucous Elland Road, the Lionesses had found themselves in a rare situation by going behind under Sarina Weigman, as Lieke Martens headed the Dutch in front from a corner midway through the opening period.
But Lucy Bronze’s cross hauled England level before half-time – before a dramatic start to the second half.
Within the space of a minute, Sherida Spitse missed a penalty for the Dutch after Alex Greenwood brought down substitute Danielle van de Donk – before substitute Beth Mead tapped home a cross from the impressive Lauren Hemp – who came to life later in the half.
Hemp set up Ella Toone who curled home a third – before the Manchester City winger volleyed home from inside the box for the Lionesses’ fourth. Mead capitalised on more questionable Dutch defending by twisting and turning in the box – before adding a fifth.
With star striker Ellen White missing through coronavirus, a lot of the attacking focus was whether Hemp could star as the Lionesses’ main influence up front – and it was last season’s PFA Young Player of the Year who showed the most intent in the early stages.
Hemp headed Fran Kirby’s cross wide in the opening exchanges of the game, before nearly earning a freak goal as she closed down Dutch goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal’s punt forward but the ricocheted clearance bounced just wide.
England match ratings
- England: Earps 7; Bronze 7, Bright 6, Greenwood 5, Daly 6; Williamson (c) 7, Walsh 6; Kelly 6, Kirby 7, Hemp 9; England 6
- Subs: Mead 8 (for Kelly, h/t), Stanway 6 (for Greenwood 63), Toone 7 (for Kirby 63), Russo 6 (for England 63), Carter 6 (for Daly 75), Parris n/a (for Hemp 81)
- Subs not used: Stokes, Hampton, Wubben-Moy, Scott, Roebuck
- Player of the Match: Lauren Hemp (England)
- Attendance: 19,365
At the other end, Lionesses goalkeeper Mary Earps pulled off a great save from close range to deny Lineth Beerensteyn, who got onto the end of Jill Roord’s deflected effort and twisted to fire at goal.
And it wasn’t long until the reigning European champions were ahead in what was a promising spell for the Dutch. Roord’s corner found Martens at the front post, with the Barcelona hotshot – soon to join PSG – expertly beating Keira Walsh to the ball.
One nearly became two as Beerensteyn ran through on goal but Rachel Daly – making her 50th cap in her hometown – sprinted back to intervene and clear.
The Lionesses managed to step the trend and the promising Kirby won a free-kick on the edge of the area after jinking and turning well – but Alex Greenwood’s set-piece was well held by Van Veenendaal.
And the Lionesses found themselves level just 10 minutes before the break, Jackie Groenen’s poor touch allowed Kirby to drive at goal and the ball was recycled to Bronze down the right. Barcelona’s new right-back appeared to mis-hit her cross but it ended up flying into Van Veenendaal’s top corner.
It was the much-needed boost the Lionesses needed before the break – and Wiegman’s side came out strong at the interval.
Hemp got down the left and her deflected shot found substitute Mead at the back post – but the Arsenal winger’s touch let her down.
But it was another half-time substitute that nearly brought the Netherlands back in front. Van de Donk burst clear down the right and Greenwood was caught the wrong side of the former Arsenal player. VAR took its time to award the spot-kick but it was all in vain as Spitse put her spot-kick wide.
In a dramatic twist, England went up the other end and took the lead themselves, with Walsh playing Hemp down the left and crossing for Mead – who made no mistake that time at the back post.
Suddenly, Elland Road was bouncing and Hemp was pulling the strings for the Lionesses. She teed up Kirby in the Dutch half, but the returning attacker took too long to pull the trigger in the box and a good chance went begging for the hosts.
The Netherlands brought on Women’s Super League record goalscorer Vivianne Miedema off the bench at the hour mark for more attacking impetus but it was England who stayed on top.
Snapshots from Hemp and Daly were relatively easy work for Van Veenendaal, who had to save well from Mead at the back post following another superb delivery from England’s No 11.
Hemp suddenly got the goal and assist she deserved. First, she set up Toone who curled home her 11th goal in 14 games at international level, though questions should be asked about Van Veenendaal – who let the ball bounce past her.
England went for the fourth straight away. Toone hit the post from Bronze’s cross but the Netherlands failed to clear their lines – leaving Hemp with a close-range finish.
And with the clock edging close to 90, the Lionesses weren’t done yet – as Mead scored a fine solo goal after Russo saw a close-range effort blocked.
It could have been more for the Lionesses – as Toone saw an even later effort saved at the back post and Russo hit the crossbar in the last kick of the game – but full-time brought a joyous ‘Sweet Caroline’ at Elland Road, with the belief that football could be coming home metaphorically, as well as literally, this summer.
Analysis: No Hemp, no party – England need her on the ball
Sky Sports football journalist Sam Blitz at Elland Road:
If it wasn’t clear before, it is now. Lauren Hemp is England’s best player going into the European Championships and her form will dictate how well the Lionesses do on home soil.
This 5-1 victory over the Netherlands shows exactly why Weigman needs to get the best out of her. In the first half, Hemp barely got involved in the game after the first five minutes and England were devoid of ideas going forward.
But the second half was a Hemp masterclass. Last season’s Young PFA Player of the Year drove at opponents, placed clever intricate passes to team-mates – and ended up with a goal and two assists.
Of course, the Lionesses have other talents at their disposal. Millie Bright is key at the back, Leah Williamson dictates matters from midfield – with Beth Mead and Ellen White also tasked with chipping in up front.
But Hemp appears to unlock all these players – no other player carries the influence she does.
Legendary England goalkeeper Karen Bardsley wore a shirt with “Lauren Hemp is my spirit animal” at Elland Road – she’ll carry the spirit of the nation too.
England manager Sarina Wiegman:
“We’ve spoken about that, there are many favourites – we are one of them. We know where we want to go to.
“We stick to strategy or plans, whether we lose or win. If we would have lost today, we know where we can improve in our style of play.
“The expectation will go higher but now is a moment. We had the Arnold Clark Cup which was close too. We have to improve a couple of bits.
“I don’t think we are there because some things didn’t go well and we have to improve that too, so we will start working on that on Monday.
“It was a good learning moment that we came from behind and conceded a goal. We haven’t done that since September, since I came in. It’s good to see the reaction from the team and bring the game to the level we should be able to play.
“It’s not frustrating, it gave me the question of what was going on. Netherlands gave us a hard time too. Tactically we needed to do a little different, in possession and out of possession, we are good at high ball tempo and playing runs behind. We didn’t do that, it was too low and did that a lot better the second half.”
Netherlands manager Mark Parsons:
“England will be favourites in the Euros. Where they are, the quality of players, the home crowd, the resources the WSL has been putting in, the work the clubs have been doing – it all comes together and it’s very hard to see they’re not favourites.
“They’re very, very good. I think opponents watching the last 30 minutes will be worried. You have a top, top coach that’s been there and won it. Arjan [Veurink] and Sarina are doing some strong work.
“Eleven years ago, I left England and at that point, it felt like giving women’s football what it deserved is a responsibility and now people are looking at it as an opportunity to develop world-class players and make money. It’s an investment, the Women’s Super League has led the way.
“Sky Sports are putting big investment by showing women’s football – which is what this is about. The [Dutch] Eredivisie’s doing good work but between the Euros and the pound, the investment is big.
“It’s paying off for the national team. They’re a fun team, a great team and we’re going to be much more prepared the next time we face them.”
England conclude their Euro 2022 preparations when they visit Switzerland on Thursday, in what is their final friendly before the tournament begins on July 6. That evening, the Lionesses host Austria at Old Trafford.
Keep up with all the latest from Euro 2022 across Sky Sports and Sky Sports News this summer.
Coverage will be anchored by Sky Sports WSL presenter Caroline Barker, alongside Jessica Creighton and Kyle Walker. Meanwhile, Karen Carney, Sue Smith, Courtney Sweetman-Kirk and Laura Bassett will give analysis throughout the tournament.
They will also be joined by experienced England goalkeeper Karen Bardsley and Manchester City defender Esme Morgan.
The pundits and presenters will work from the Sky Sports Women’s Euro 2022 Mobile Presentation Bus, which will follow the Sky Sports News team around the country to the various stadiums where matches are being played.
In addition, Sky Sports’ Essential Football Podcast will be rebranded for the tournament to Sky Sports Women’s Euros Podcast rom 21 June. Hosted by Charlotte Marsh and Anton Toloui, it will feature exclusive news and player interviews in addition to a strong programme line up around the tournament.
Group A: England, Austria, Norway, Northern Ireland
Group B: Germany, Denmark, Spain, Finland
Group C: Netherlands, Sweden, Portugal, Switzerland
Group D: France, Italy, Belgium, Iceland
Wednesday July 6
Group A: England vs Austria – kick off 8pm, Old Trafford
Thursday July 7
Group A: Norway vs Northern Ireland – kick off 8pm, St Mary’s
Friday July 8
Group B: Spain vs Finland – kick off 5pm, Stadium MK
Group B: Germany vs Denmark – kick off 8pm, London Community Stadium
Saturday July 9
Group C: Portugal vs Switzerland – kick off 5pm, Leigh Sports Village
Group C: Netherlands vs Sweden – kick off 8pm, Bramall Lane
Sunday July 10
Group D: Belgium vs Iceland – kick off 5pm, Manchester City Academy Stadium
Group D: France vs Italy – kick off 8pm, New York Stadium
Monday July 11
Group A: Austria vs Northern Ireland – kick off 5pm, St Mary’s
Group A: England v Norway – kick off 8pm, Brighton and Hove Community Stadium
Tuesday July 12
Group B: Denmark vs Finland – kick off 5pm, Stadium MK
Group B: Germany vs Spain – kick off 8pm, London Community Stadium
Wednesday July 13
Group C: Sweden vs Switzerland – kick off 5pm, Bramall Lane
Group C: Netherlands v Portugal – kick off 8pm, Leigh Sports Village
Thursday July 14
Group D: Italy vs Iceland – kick off 5pm, Manchester City Academy Stadium
Group D: France vs Belgium – kick off 8pm, New York Stadium
Friday July 15
Group A: Northern Ireland v England – kick off 8pm, St Mary’s
Group A: Austria vs Norway – kick off 8pm, Brighton and Hove Community Stadium
Saturday July 16
Group B: Finland vs Germany – kick off 8pm, Stadium MK
Group B: Denmark vs Spain – kick off 8pm, London Community Stadium
Sunday July 17
Group C: Switzerland vs Netherlands – kick off 5pm, Bramall Lane
Group C: Sweden vs Portugal – kick off 5pm, Leigh Sports Village
Monday July 18
Group D: Iceland vs France – kick off 8pm, New York Stadium
Group D: Italy vs Belgium – kick off 8pm, Manchester City Academy Stadium
Wednesday July 20
Quarter-final 1: Winners Group A v Runners-up Group B – kick off 8pm, Brighton and Hove Community Stadium
Thursday July 21
Quarter-final 2: Winners Group B v Runners-up Group A – kick off 8pm, London Community Stadium
Friday July 22
Quarter-final 3: Winners Group C v Runners-up Group D – kick off 8pm, Leigh Sports Village
Quarter-final 4: Winners Group D v Runners-up Group C – kick off 8pm, New York Stadium
Tuesday July 26
Semi-final 1: Winners quarter-final 1 v Winners quarter-final 3 – kick off 8pm, Bramall Lane
Wednesday July 27
Semi-final 2: Winners quarter-final 2 v Winners quarter-final 4 – kick-off 8pm, Stadium MK
Sunday July 31
Winners semi-final 1 v Winners semi-final 2 – kick off 5pm, Wembley