England edge past Netherlands in thrilling Olympic qualifier

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Sarina Wiegman looks and walks on after England vs Netherlands
Sarina Wiegman, Head Coach of England, looks on following the UEFA Womens Nations League match between England and Netherlands at Wembley Stadium on December 01, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

England managed to keep their Olympic hopes alive with a huge comeback over the Netherlands on Friday night as they clawed back a 2-0 deficit. The Lionesses hit Sarina Wiegman’s former side for three in the second half to claim a massive three points in their qualification hunt.

Despite the last-minute withdrawal of Millie Bright, Wiegman’s plans remained unaltered, with Jess Carter stepping in seamlessly to fill the gap in the defence.

Starting XIs

England

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

Subs: Morgan, Hampton, Toone, Wubben-Moy, Zelem, Mead, Clinton, Daly, Le Tissier, Keating, Turner, Russo

The Netherlands

Van Domselaar; Pelova, Dijkstra, Janssen, Brugts, Groenen, Spitse, Van de Donk, Roord, Beerensteyn, Martens

Subs: Weimar, Lorsheyd, Wilms, Leuchter, Van Dongen, Miedema, Van de Sanden, Jansen, Snoeijs, Casparij, Kaptein, Egurrola

England keep Olympic 2024 hopes alive

The tension at the stadium was palpable as England, infused with a sense of urgency, sought a crucial victory to boost their Olympic qualification hopes. Yet again, the absence of VAR cast a shadow over the proceedings. It was a painful reminder of the controversial defeat to the Netherlands back in September due to a lack of replays.

For the first time under Wiegman’s stewardship, England appeared out of form, with Lauren Hemp taking on an unfamiliar central role. A panicked first-half performance led to a 2-0 deficit at the break. However, a transformed England emerged in the second half. They exuded calm control to overturn the scoreline to a stunning 3-2 win.

It was a night that will linger long in the memory. A surreal reversal of fortunes that saw England defy expectations. The unwavering belief of the coach, the resilience of the players, and the relentless support of the fans culminated in an unforgettable victory.

Lauren James was pivotal, delivering another Player of the Match performance with two incredible assists that sparked England’s comeback. The Netherlands, having seized an early lead in the 12th minute from a rebound and doubling it in the 35th, looked set to continue their dominance.

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Amidst the action, Chloe Kelly’s long-range effort narrowly missed the mark, while James’ attempt was safely gathered by the goalkeeper. Despite conceding goals, Mary Earps remained a fan favourite, embodying the spirit and solidarity that propels women’s football forward.

Lionesses come up clutch

The 53rd minute brought 10 seconds of pure intensity as England came tantalizingly close to scoring. Hope was restored as Georgia Stanway and Hemp, celebrating her 50th cap, netted goals in the 58th and 60th minutes respectively.

Substitutes Alessia Russo and Ella Toone entered in unison, tasked with maintaining the momentum. Their synergy was evident as the match approached its climax. Toone delivered a 90th-minute winner that sent the crowd into ecstasy. The Man United star once again showed us how much she loves a last-minute game-changing goal.

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Earps, initially feeling despondent after the first half, was uplifted by the unwavering support from the stands and her teammates, which ultimately saw England clinch a 3-2 comeback victory. Beth Mead’s return to international football after a lengthy injury spell was nothing short of inspirational. Her presence and hunger on the field was palpable.

England’s statistical dominance was also clear. With 55 percent possession and 21 shots to the Netherlands’ 13 — though more goals in the first half seemed warranted.

In the end, England’s display of character and adaptability not only secured a vital win but also ended the Netherlands’ reign at the top, signalling a new era for English football.

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