England suffered a big blow to their hopes of qualifying for the semi-finals of the Nations League as a brilliantly entertaining contest against Belgium was won by the hosts.
Too often in the match the Lionesses were caught on their heels and forced to scramble back in defence as the Belgians came forward on the counter-attack. A foul just outside the box set up Laura De Neve to whip home a fantastic free kick which put the home side ahead.
A collision between Jassina Blom and Alex Greenwood saw the England defender stretchered off the pitch after a long delay. England responded to the break better, they equalised off the head of Lucy Bronze before Fran Kirby slotted home a cool finish to get them in front.
Another counter was the Lionesses’ undoing though as Tessa Wullaert beat Mary Earps with a shot across the box before a late penalty, due to a handball from Georgia Stanway, decided proceedings as Wullaert earned her team a famous victory.
Relive the action from Belgium vs England below:
Shock defeat to Belgium leaves England’s Nations League hopes in the balance
After falling behind to Laura De Neve’s ninth-minute free-kick and then seeing defender Alex Greenwood carried off on a stretcher having been involved in a clash of heads, the Lionesses turned things around to lead via goals from Lucy Bronze and Fran Kirby.
But Wullaert subsequently put Belgium back on level terms in first-half stoppage time, then notched the winner from the spot with five minutes of normal time remaining at the end after Georgia Stanway handled.
Belgium 3-2 England: Tessa Wullaert’s late penalty decided the game as the Red Flames sealed famous win
Belgium vs England
Good evening and welcome to The Independent’s coverage of tonight’s action from the Women’s Nations League as England travel to Belgium hoping to move to the top of Group A1.
The Lionesses are currently second in the table, behind the Netherlands on goal difference, but can keep up the pace with the Dutch side if they win in Leuven. They may also jump above the Netherlands should they fail to defeat Scotland in the other group game this evening.
Sarina Wiegman’s side know how dangerous Belgium can be having played them five days ago in Leicester. On that occasion the Lionesses failed to press home their advantage to close out the game but managed to get a 1-0 win thanks to Lauren Hemp’s finish.
Another enticing encounter awaits tonight, can the Lionesses win again?
How to watch Belgium vs England
England take on Belgium at Den Dreef Stadium in Leuven on Tuesday 31 October at 7.30pm GMT.
The Nations League match will be shown live on ITV4 and on the streaming service ITVX, with coverage starting at 6.45pm GMT.
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Early England team news
Fran Kirby pulled on an England shirt for the first time in a year when she was brought on as a substitute against Belgium in Leicester last week. She missed the World Cup after undergoing knee surgery in March.
Lauren James is ruled out for tonight’s match once again with a concussion.
Belgium vs England prediction
As they did in Leicester last week, England should have enough firepower to get the job done against a decent Belgium side. They may just sneak through for victory although they will have to be wary of their host’s direct threat.
England 2-1 Belgium.
England come out on top but it’s far from a complete performance against Belgium
It wasn’t particularly pretty but England for the most part achieved what they set out to do. Victory over Belgium was at least some form of response to September’s defeat by the Netherlands, the Lionesses thankfully laid to rest their run of five games without a clean sheet, and three points will of course be advantageous if they are to realise their Nations League ambitions.
It all started as if England were going to make a convincing statement and Sarina Wiegman would immediately be vindicated for her decision to revert to a tried-and-tested back four. Defeat by the Netherlands was difficult, and accepting the issues with the experimental formation undeniably brought about some progression.
England 1-0 Belgium: Lauren Hemp scores decisive goal in key Nations League clash
Belgium vs England
England’s Nations League group is very tight.
Sarina Wiegman’s team are level on points with the Netherlands (six) but are second due to a worse goal difference and a poorer head-to-head record after they were defeated 2-1 by the Dutch team back in September.
To qualify for the semi-finals of the tournament England need to finish top meaning they must match the Netherlands’ result this evening to keep up the pace.
The Dutch side are expected to beat Scotland so England would need a second consecutive victory over Belgium to remain in touch.
A showdown between the Lionesses and the Netherlands would then take place when the sides go clash at Wembley in December in what is likely to be a match that decides who will win the group.
An adding ingredient to proceedings is that England also hold Team GB’s hopes of reaching the Olympics. To confirm their place at Paris in 2024, the Lionesses would need to reach the final of the Nations League meaning these matches have a lot riding on them.
Wiegman pleased with previous win over Belgium
England banished ay lingering doubts following their defeat to the Netherlands when they beat Belgium 1-0 last time out. Manager, Sarina Wiegman, spoke to ITV after that victory saying she was pleased her team was back to winning ways but admitted their is improvements to be made.
“I think we are very happy with the win, especially after the last game we lost.” She said, “We hoped to score more than we did tonight to make it a little bit easier.
“I think we started the game really well with a lot of pace, then it dropped a little bit. It’s just a lot easier when we score, but how we are on the pitch, how we want to play, we are pleased with that.”
Belgium vs England
England are unbeaten against Belgium in each of their last 13 meetings (10wins, three draws), averaging 2.6 goals per game against them during that run (34 in total).
Mary Earps reveals difficulties with fan relationship following rise of women’s football
The England goalkeeper was criticised for not signing an autograph following Manchester United’s win at Everton on Sunday.
The Lionesses throughout the years have frequently stayed behind after games to meet with the supporters in the crowd, but the increased attendances have meant the fans they do meet become a smaller proportion of the total.
Earps has also discussed her shirt selling out after Nike belatedly decided to release a limited number following the Lionesses’ success at the World Cup
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