The Euro’s first quarter-final match served up an entertaining encounter between a dominant England side needing extra time to defeat a defiant Spanish team.
England and Spain are regarded as tournament favourites and this match had high-stakes written all over it with one of them having a spot in the semi-finals which the Lionesses booked with a 2-1 win.
Despite qualifying from a challenging group Spain’s only loss so far was against Germany, the eventual Group B winners while England was still unbeaten and hasn’t conceded a goal.
What’s that noise? 🧐
Just the sound of another record being smashed at #WEURO2022 🤩
Before tonight, the biggest crowd at a Women’s EURO quarter-final was 11,106…
…it’s now 28,994 🤯
Thank you for your incredible support ❤️ pic.twitter.com/MTbtA5ezO4
— Ticketing – UEFA Women's EURO 2022 (@WEUROTicketing) July 20, 2022
England and Spain matched each other strength for strength in the opening minutes and strategically attacked each other and this seemed to be the toughest game the Lionesses faced in the tournament so far while Spain faced a strong German side earlier.
England manager Sarina Wiegman in the post-match press conference discussed the value every squad player adds in this tournament and also praised their support for each other.
“Every game the subs have had an influence [and] it shows the depth in our team… the eagerness of every player to come in or to start because I think everyone shows eagerness but everyone also, all the time, is on the same page,” she said.
“Things change and we want to make a difference and they just, and as a team, do that so well and [I] am really happy with that, we are all supportive [and] everyone knows their role [and] everyone knows their task otherwise you can’t do what you bring on the pitch.
“I don’t make the decisions by my own, we have a technical staff [who] communicate about what we want to do before a game [and] we talk about all scenarios and during the game [we talk about] OK we need this so let’s do this, so yeah it’s teamwork too.”
The Spanish team’s relentless pressure forced England’s defence deep into their half and winger Marta Cardona was the first to have a shot on goal in the 22nd minute but was blocked by England captain Leah Williamson for a corner.
The Lionesses have been flawless and high scoring ever since Wiegman was appointed as manager and in this match, England searched for their 100th goal in 18 games under her guidance.
As the game progressed further in the first half, Spain became more comfortable on the ball and possessed it more than England as well as negating the home team’s quick counter-attacks.
It shows the depth in our team… the eagerness of every player to come in or to start because I think everyone shows eagerness but everyone also, all the time, is on the same page.
The Lionesses eventually got a chance through a free kick to test the Spanish in the 36th minute and it caused the visitor’s defence chaos, Ellen White capitalised from it and scored but was chopped off by VAR for being offside.
England was beginning to settle into the game and became increasingly troublesome in the wide spaces and full back Rachel Daly’s cross unintentionally hit Lauren Hemp and went out in the 39th minute.
Spain’s Maria Pilar Leon was the first player in the game to get a yellow in the 43rd minute, after fouling and stopping Hemp’s quick counter-attack against her team.
Spain was the first to utilise its bench at the start of the second half with youngster Athenea del Castillo replacing Cardona.
The second half started as it ended with Spain playing pass and move football while the Lionesses were chasing their shadows.
The Spanish were playing intricate passes in the opposite half and when the ball reached Esther Gonzalez in the box unmarked, she picked her spot in the far corner of the goal, scoring in the 53rd minute making it 1-0.
During the post-match press conference, Spain head coach Jorge Vilda said the team was disappointed with the result while expressing hope for the national team’s future going forward.
“It’s a disappointing defeat and it’s disappointing to go out of this competition. If there’s a good way to lose, I think it’s by playing the sort of game that my players have done tonight,” he said.
“We are all very proud of what we saw out on the pitch [and] everyone has improved [and] we gave everything [but] it wasn’t to be and now we have to keep our heads held high and we’ll analyse it further going forward.
“We have a very good team here. There’s a bright future ahead based on what we have seen at this tournament.
“It’s a difficult day for us [and] we’ll have to digest it over the next few days and then assess where we can improve [because] there are areas for improvements.
“We have done well in many areas and then when there are big moments in the future we hope that we can avoid the sorts of setbacks that we’ve had this time around.”
We have a very good team here. There’s a bright future ahead based on what we have seen at this tournament.
After going behind Wiegman didn’t like what she was watching and changed her team with attack-minded players Alessia Russo, Chloe Kelly, and Ella Toone coming on in the second half.
The early substitute of Del Castillo proved a masterstroke and the youngster’s pace and trickery caused Daly so many nightmares on the left with her cross-shot almost going in, but saved by Mary Earp in the 64th minute.
The highest scoring team in the tournament was nullified and struggled to create any meaningful chances with their first shot on target coming in the 66th minute, while Hemp missed another chance to get her team back in the game in the 75th minute after the ball pinballed in the box.
The Lionesses looked out of ideas and options against Spain and became increasingly frustrated by the way the Spanish were playing.
The Spanish tried as they might, but did not find their second goal to kill off the game with Aitana Bonmati’s shot in the 78th minute also pinballing in the box and going out.
English fans in the stadium started to show signs of nerves but Kelly’s cross in the box met Russo’s head which assisted teammate Toone in the 82nd minute, making it 1-1 and sending the crowd into crazy celebrations.
The Lionesses came to life after scoring the equaliser and put the Spanish team under pressure with the visitors becoming disorganised but sitting back in the final minutes of the game.
— GOAL (@goal) July 20, 2022
The momentum had swung England’s way and Spain’s tired legs in extra time led to a misplaced pass which Georgia Stanway pounced on and she let go of a thunderous shot outside the box that went past Sandra Paños in goal whose view was blocked by Leon in the 95th minute, making it 2-1, and breaking Spanish hearts.
After the game, the Lionesses fans were jubilant and started singing their favourite tune “football is coming home” while their opponents were tearful and in disbelief, their next game will be against Sweden or Belgium in the semi-finals.
Screenshot courtesy of Optus Sports.