A stunning Georgia Stanway strike saw England come from a goal down to seal their place in the Euro 2022 semi finals with a 2-1 extra time victory over Spain.
The Lionesses had trailed until the 84th minute after Esther Gonzalez had given Spain the lead shortly after the break, before Ella Toone popped up with a late equaliser to send the game to extra time.
Stanway then produced a moment of sheer brilliance to book England’s place in a fourth consecutive major tournament semi final.
The pre-match amble had concerned whether either side would negotiate their ball playing principles, and it was Spain who saw more possession and territory in the first period. Fullbacks Ona Batlle and Olga Carmona did a particularly effective job pinning the usually destructive Beth Mead and Lauren Hemp back into their own half.
However, La Roja were starved of clear cut opportunities; Mariona Caldentey’s effort from the edge of the box straight into the arms of Mary Earps was either side’s only shot on target of the opening 45.
England gradually grew into the game, and Ellen White had the ball in the back of the net 10 minutes before the break, collecting the afters of a Hemp set piece and slamming home, but the goal was ruled out for offside.
Finally finding a way through the Spanish backline seemed to roar the Lionesses into life, and England finished the half in the ascendency.
Athenea Del Castillo was introduced at half time to breathe some flair into the Spanish forward line- and her impact was almost instant. Within 10 minutes of entering the fray, she had skipped past Daly and fed Esther Gonzalez, who found the bottom corner as Spain took the lead.
The Real Madrid winger continued to give Daly the run around, and only a fingertip save from Earps prevented her from doubling Spain’s advantage after jinxing past the England left back.
England’s best sighting of goal was carved out by a substitute of their own. Chloe Kelly’s in-swinging delivery caused chaos in the Spain backline, Georgia Stanway and Toone both saw efforts blocked before Hemp fired over.
The England equaliser came six minutes from time – and again it was the substitutes in the thick of the action. Hemp’s cross was won in the air by Alessia Russo, and Toone was quickest to react to poke home – to roars of relief around the Amex.
Into extra time the game went, and it appeared it would need a set piece, a slice of luck or a sprinkling of magic to settle proceedings – in the end it was the latter. Stanway drove magnificently at the Spain backline and sent a stunning effort from the edge of the box swerving past the outstretched finger tips of Sandra Paños to cue delirium in Brighton.
GK: Mary Earps – 7/10 – Bravely collected a teasing Carmona delivery in the early exchanges and made a top save to prevent Del Castillo from doubling Spain’s lead. Cool under pressure with the ball at her feet.
RB: Lucy Bronze – 7/10 – Looked one of England’s most potent attacking threats with her bursts forward from deep in the first half. Used her strength and power to win the ball back well on a couple of occasions
CB: Leah Williamson – 7/10 – Strode out of defence confidently on a number of occasions, got in the way of a goal bound Cardona effort and made an important header clearance in the first half.
CB: Millie Bright – 7/10 – Swept up magnificently to thwart a couple of potentially dangerous Spain forays forward. Opted to drop towards the goal line as opposed to sticking with Gonzalez for Spain’s opener. Made a big block in extra time to send a Sarriegi effort narrowly past the post.
LB: Rachel Daly – 4/10 – A real game of two halves; kept Cardona so quiet in the first half that the Spain winger was withdrawn at the break, but then beaten by Del Castillo in the build up to the opening goal and had a torrid time of it in the second period.
CM: Keira Walsh – 9/10 – Typically exemplary in possession and shielded the back four really effectively with her reading of the game. Won so many crunch 50:50 tackles and pivotal to England’s equaliser with her patience and decision making.
CM: Georgia Stanway – 8/10 – Ran her heart out, thundered into every challenge. Drove England forward, found Hemp in the build up to the Lionesses’ equaliser before netting an absolute beauty of her own.
CM: Fran Kirby – 5/10 – The quietest she’s been all tournament, unable to have any real attacking impact on proceedings. Replaced just after the hour.
RW: Beth Mead – 5/10 – Had to put in a bigger defensive shift than she has been accustomed to this tournament, tracking the marauding Carmona. Quiet going forward, and England were all the poorer for it. Subbed off before the hour mark.
ST: Ellen White – 5/10 – Glanced a Mead free kick over the bar early in the first half and saw a goal ruled out for offside. A physical presence, put in a big shift but ultimately kept quiet before being replaced before the hour.
LW: Lauren Hemp – 6/10 – Often found herself receiving the ball with her back to goal and struggled to get on the turn to charge at the Spain backline. A big decision to keep her on the pitch at the expense of Mead, but repaid her manager’s faith by providing the cross for England’s equaliser.
SUB: Chloe Kelly – 7/10 – Made a real impact after her introduction, offering England something different.
SUB: Alessia Russo – 8/10 – Won the header to set up England’s equaliser. Really effective with her physicality.
SUB: Ella Toone – 8/10 – Off the bench to net England’s equaliser, latching onto Russo’s header and slotting home.
SUB: Alex Greenwood – 7/10 – Did a much better defensive job on the previously devastating Del Castillo.
SUB: Jill Scott – N/A
SUB: Nikita Parris – N/A
GK: Sandra Paños – 6/10 – Hardly had a save to make and couldn’t do a great deal about either England goal.
RB: Ona Batlle – 8/10 – Had a really physical battle with Hemp, bringing her down on a couple of occasions. Nullified the England wide threat superbly.
CB: Irene Paredes – 6/10 – Robust, helping keep White very quiet. Struggled more against the physicality of Russo.
CB: Mapi Leon – 7/10 – Went into the book for a cynical, tactical foul on Stanway towards the end of the first half. Solid defensively, won plenty in the air, great with the ball at her feet,
LB: Olga Carmona – 8/10 – One of four changes made to the Spain side, did a very good defensive job on Mead and then Hemp, never allowing either England winger to turn. Tore forward at every opportunity in the first half.
CM: Patricia Guijarro – 7/10 – Did the simple things very well. Offered the back four protection, calm in possession.
CM: Teresa Abelleira – 6/10 – One of the four new changes made to the Spain starting XI by Vilda. Playing as one of two sitting midfielders, strong in possession, replaced with 19 remaining.
CM: Aitana Bonmati – 7/10 – Playing as the most advanced midfielder, so clever with her movement and so good in tight spaces.
RW: Marta Cardona – 5/10 – In from the start having netted the winner against Denmark, volleyed a half chance wide early in the first half. Replaced at half time.
ST: Esther Gonzalez – 8/10 – In for Garcia up top. Pulled away from her marker and confidently found the bottom corner to give Spain the lead.
LW: Mariona Caldentey – 7/10 – Recorded Spain’s first effort on target after 16 minutes, cutting inside and firing straight at Earps. Teamed up well with Carmona.
SUB: Athenea Del Castillo – 8/10 – An inspired substitution, skipping past Daly and putting it on a plate for Gonzalez within 10 minutes of her introduction. Faded slightly after Greenwood entered the fray.
SUB: Laia Alexandri – 6/10
SUB: Sheila Garcia – 6/10
SUB: Amaiur Sarriegi – 6/10