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  • Writer's pictureBy Paul Lagan at Wembley Stadium

Forget Roy of the Rovers, it's Lauren of the Lionesses as she inspires 3-2 win over Netherlands

England v Netherlands Picture: Paul Lagan
England v Netherlands Picture: Paul Lagan

By Paul Lagan at Wembley Stadium

England v Netherlands


Move over Roy of the Rovers, this is Lauren of the Lionesses show as the Chelsea attacker hauled England from an embarrassing 2-0 home defeat to the Netherlands to a sensational 3-2 victory that keeps the twin hopes of a Nations League qualification alive as well as the prospect of participation in next year's Olympics in Paris.

While she did not score, her imperious defence-splitting passing twice set up net-busting goals – the second a injury time last-gasp volley by Ella Toome that sent the 71,632 supporters into raptures.

Make no mistake, without James on the pitch, England would have faced a dark winter and at 2-0 down within 35 minutes, it looked like becoming a reality.

James inspired the come back on 58 minutes with a inch-perfect pass to Georgia Stanway to slot home. Lauren Hemp then equalised before James repeated the effort on 91 minutes.

England and the Netherlands top Group A1 with nine points apiece – England have a three-goal deficit over them, and they travel to Scotland on Tuesday to compete the group matches. The Netherlands face Belgium.

England had the better of the early exchanges as the Netherlands showed an aggressive quality, not normally associated with the country.

But with the home side not having a recognised centre-forward - Alessia Russo and Rachel Daly were on the bench, any ball put into the box from wide, whether a byline cross or free-kick was easily dealt with by the visitors' defence.

Hemp was charged with being the player in front and a quick break helped by James saw the Manchester City player strike on goal – goalkeeper Daphne van Domselaar produced a finger tipped save to put the ball away for a corner.

Remarkably none of the Swedish officials saw it and a goal kick was given.

However from the resultant play, Netherlands opened the scoring when Lineth Beerensteyn outwitted the England defence, latched onto a great through ball and slotted home past Mary Earps on 12 minutes.

Jill Rood almost doubled the lead on 22 minutes, but her clipped shot skimmed off the crossbar as the visitors took control of the game.

A speculative shot by James zipped high over the Netherlands's crossbar a minute later.

Disaster struck the Lionesses 11 minutes from the break, and it was Beerensteyn again who got past Jess Carter and Alex Greenwood to let off a shot on goal. It wasn't particularly hard or fast but somehow Earps contrived to let the ball slip under her body at her near post and the ball trickled in to the back of the net.

Chloe Kelly tried a shot two minutes later, but her effort from the right inched wide of Van Domselaar's right post.

Lucy Bronze was also inches wide, latching onto another Greenwood free-kick, but her header failed to trouble the Netherlands' goal.

England head coach Sarina Wiegman opted to bring on Arsenal's Beth Mead for Kelly at half-time – the only change by England.

While nether side looked to be keen on opening up too much, it was incumbent on England to at least try.

Once again it was a brilliant curling inswinger by James from the left that created the chance and in-running Georgia Stanway nodded home from the apex of the far six-yard box.

Sensationally, the Lionesses were level on 61 minutes – and it was Hemp, this time on the edge of the area, who received a cute back pass from Stanway and the city forward caressed the ball past Domselaar.

Carter was then replaced by Esme Morgan.

Russo was soon in the action along with Ella Toone – off went Kirby, and Stanway.

With no third goal on the horizon despite dominating play, Wiegman threw her last die on the field, bringing on striker Daly for defender Charles with five minutes left on the clock.

As 90 minutes turned – up popped James again on the left. And as she has done on so many occasions she produced a sophisticated, yet painfully-beautiful in-swinging cross.

This time it was Toone on the end of it and the midfielder held her nerve and slotted home the perfect low volley from a tight angle to give England the lead.

Soon it was all over – England breathed a sigh of relief.

Now they have to go again on Tuesday. It's still all to play for.

Teams: England, Earps, Bronze, Charles, Walsh, Greenwood, Carer, Kelly, Stanway, Kirby, James, Hemp.

Substitute: Hampton, Keating, Morgan, Toone, Wubben-Moy, Zelem, Mead, Clinton, Daly, Le Tissier, Turner, Russo

Netherlands: Van Domselaar, Dijkstra, Roord, Beerensteyn, Spitse, Van de Donk, Martens, Groenen, Pelova, Janssen, Brugts.

Substitutes: Weimar, Lorsheyd, Wilms, Leuchter, Van Dongen, Miedema, Van de Sanden, Jansen, Snoeijs, Casparij, Kaptein, Egurrola,

Referee: Tess Solon (Sweden)


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