Women's Euros match report: England 2 Spain 3 - Late sucker punch leaves England facing uphill task

 

Linkoping Arena

The England women’s team could beat Roy Hodgson’s men, the national coach Hope Powell has reckoned, but in their opening group game at these European Championship finals they lost to the Spanish women’s side in a thrilling but ultimately heartbreaking encounter that was decided in the fourth minute of stoppage time by a goal that came off the head of the goalkeeper Karen Bardsley.

“Absolutely, why not?” was Powell’s reply on the children’s TV programme Newsround when asked whether the women’s team could beat the men, though she quickly added: “I think physically the guys are obviously a lot stronger than the women, but if we took it on technical ability we’re as good as the men. We’d give it a good go.”

Powell’s players certainly gave it a good go at the Linkoping Arena, twice coming from behind through first the right winger Eni Aluko then the central defender Laura Bassett to seemingly save the match before the late, late drama.

The defeat leaves England probably needing to win on Monday against Russia, who lost 3-1 to France in Group C’s other game tonight, in order to keep alive their hopes of progressing to the knockout stages.

“It's very disappointing,” admitted Powell. “To go behind and come back, not once but twice, and then lose it in the dying seconds is crushing. But we have to move on.”

On Spain’s winner she added: “I'm not going to single out one player. It is a disappointing night for everybody. There are 11 players on the pitch. I can't single out one when we didn't perform at all. We were very nervous in the first half especially. We just didn't perform. Our touch was off, there were too many unforced errors.

“But give credit to Spain, they probably deserved it on the night. They have been playing well and drawing with Germany in qualifying gave them a lot of confidence. They came into the tournament probably not expecting to progress given their rating but we didn't perform and we got punished.

“The players couldn't say much afterwards, they were very distraught and rightly so. They have just lost a very important game and now we need to dig ourselves out of a hole.

“We have two games left and if we want to progress then we know what we have to do. The players are not silly. They know they didn't perform. There will be a few frank discussions now and we will have to right the wrongs. We will have to bounce back if we want to stay in this tournament.

“It is about character now. I'm confident in the players but equally they have to perform. We will remind them of the unbeaten record they had before we came to Sweden and look to recapture that. They know they have the capabilities to do that.”

As the fourth-highest ranked team in the tournament England were not expected to lose their first game against a Spanish team that were just glad to have made it to Sweden. “To qualify for the Euro finals felt like winning it,” said the coach Ignacio Quereda after his team had scraped through their qualifying play-off against Scotland with a goal in stoppage time of extra time of the second leg.

Between that October meeting with the Scots and arriving at the finals they had played only three friendlies and, having also spent little time in training camps, and appeared to be the worst-prepared of the 12 nations at the tournament.

But they belied that assessment as, desperate for a revenge victory after being knocked out of qualifying by England for both the Euro 2009 finals and the 2011 World Cup, they started at a blistering pace and took a fourth-minute lead.

The midfielder Sonia’s perfectly-weight through ball put Boquete in behind the defence to send in a 15-yard shot that the goalkeeper Bardsley got a hand to but could not keep out.

Powell’s team were visibly shaken but, after another couple of anxious moments, they hit back with a near carbon copy of the goal they had conceded. The midfielder Jill Scott’s pass eluded two defenders to allow Aluko the space to drive forward and shoot just inside the far post.

A second England goal almost followed five minutes later, the midfielder Fara Williams driving in a 20 yard shot that the goalkeeper Ainhoa Tirapu stretched to turn over the bar. But the dangerous Sonia then forced Bardsley into a fine diving save from a well-struck angled shot.

Both sides continued to create chances. A poor 85th-minute  clearance by the left back Steph Houghton then led to the second Spanish goal, the central defender Jennifer Hermoso rifling in the loose ball from 12 yards.

A minute from the end of normal time a point seemed to have been salvaged when Bassett curled in a shot from a Rachel Yankey corner. But the game was messily lost when Alexia Putellas challenged Bardsley for an Adriana cross and the ball bounced off the keeper into the net.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Sport
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower