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Beth Mead strikes twice as impressive England see off Netherlands

Beth Mead strikes twice as impressive England see off Netherlands

  • England 5-1 Netherlands
  • Bronze, Mead, Hemp and Toone on target for Wiegman’s side

Sarina Wiegman played down England’s Euros credentials after a blistering 5-1 dismantling of holders the Netherlands in their penultimate pre-tournament friendly. “I think there are many favourites for this tournament, and we are one of them,” she said wryly.

England had been forced to come from behind for the first time during Wiegman’s tenure, but Lucy Bronze scored the reply to Lieke Martens’ first-half goal before Sherida Sptise powered a penalty off the outside of the post to wake up the lax home team. An instant response from Beth Mead a minute-and-a-half after the penalty put England ahead before Ella Toone and Lauren Hemp scored in quick succession for the, by then, rampant side and Mead added a late fifth.

Netherlands manager Mark Parsons said 5-1 was “horrible to hear” and that he took responsibility for the hefty defeat. “It was a very difficult evening,” he said. “The one thing we wanted to avoid by taking on a big game and a big team early in our preparations was this outcome. I feel a big responsibility.”

Wiegman made five changes to the team that put three past Belgium last week, including choosing Beth England to lead the line with record goal scorer Ellen White absent with Covid.

It has been a long time since England has faced the Netherlands. Then, Wiegman was in the opposite dugout, leading her team to a 3-0 semi-final win over England before going on to secure a home Euros triumph for the Netherlands in the 2017 final.

With the Dutch manager now with England and English manager Parsons having swapped Portland Thorns for the holders ahead of the Euros, and England playing in orange while the Dutch donned white shirts, any fans craving their next Stranger Things hit will have had their appetite sated by a game seemingly being played in the Upside Down.

If there had been concerns about just how ready Chelsea midfielder Fran Kirby was ahead of this summer’s tournament following her time out with a fatigue problem, then those were partly allayed in the first half against the runners-up in the 2019 World Cup. Kirby’s value in the No 10 role was clear within two minutes as she and Chloe Kelly combined neatly on the right.

Lauren Hemp and Beth England celebrate after Lucy Bronze’s effort lands in the net to equalise.

Wiegman had wanted tougher tests for her Lionesses before their Euros opener at Old Trafford on the 6 July and she looked to be getting that at Elland Road. Mary Earps did well to deny Lineth Beerensteyn from close range after the forward had wriggled free of Bronze.

The visiting team took the lead three minutes later and the source was familiar. Martens ran England’s defence ragged in 2017 and her near-post header from a corner evaded the static defenders between herself and the goal and caught out Earps, who was slow to react.

Kirby had been fielding some hefty challenges and, in the 32nd minute, when the latest came in the forward managed to flick the ball to her right as she went down, Bronze collected and clipped the ball towards the far post and it curved in.

Shortly after the break there was a VAR check for a Netherlands penalty after Alex Greenwood whipped the feet away from former Arsenal player Danielle van de Donk in the box. The centre-back was booked for the sloppy challenge but Spitse, making her 200th appearance for her country, smacked the resulting penalty off the outside of the post.

The reply from England was instant. Just 90 seconds after the penalty miss, England took the lead. Keira Walsh sent a slick pass into the run of Hemp and the Manchester City forward raced clear on the left before sending a cross in which was turned in by substitute Mead.

A string of changes for both sides saw Arsenal forward and Dutch record goal scorer Vivianne Miedema enter, and Manchester United’s Ella Toone was given the chance to stake her claim for the up-in-the-air No 10 role, coming on in place of Kirby.

The impact of the substitute was instant. Leeds fan Rachel Daly, who was superb throughout, released Toone who skated round Lynn Wilms and swept the ball low into the far corner.

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Is the strength of the bench England’s greatest weapon this summer? “It’s absolutely a weapon,” said Wiegman. “Whether it’s our biggest strength, I don’t know.”

Two minutes later and England had four. Bronze’s cross from the right was lashed off the base of the post by Toone before the ball was worked clear but only as far as Hemp who looped her volley into the corner. In the 90th minute Mead continued her thrilling form for England, latching on to the loose ball after Alessia Russo’s miss-hit to fire in.

It is just a friendly, but Parsons is struggling to look beyond England.

“The quality of players, the resources that the WSL has been putting in, the work that clubs have been doing,” he said. “It’s very hard to say that they’re not the favourites.”

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