From Wembley Stadium – European champions England beat world champions the USA 2-1 in front of a raucous crowd at Wembley on Friday evening.
Lauren Hemp and Georgia Stanway netted either side of a Sophia Smith strike to maintain Sarina Wiegman’s remarkable unbeaten run as England boss.
With Ellen White retired and Alessia Russo injured, the question on everybody’s lips was who would lead the line for England. Would the youthful Ebony Salmon or Lauren James be given the nod on such an occasion? Would Rachel Daly venture forward from left-back? Would B*th Mead return to the position that she began her senior career?
Wiegman opted for secret option number five, with left winger Hemp starting through the middle. Just as everyone had just about digested Hemp’s new role, the unorthodox striker had given England the lead, burying Mead’s teasing cross inside 10 minutes.
The USA levelled just before the half hour mark as Lindsey Horan robbed Stanway on the edge of the England box, and Smith fired a low, fizzing drive into the bottom corner.
It was a biting, end to end and quite frankly chaotic encounter, and England retook the lead just five minutes later. Hailie Mace was retrospectively penalised by VAR for a high foot on Lucy Bronze, and Stanway atoned for her earlier error by coolly dispatching the spot kick.
The USA thought they had levelled the scores once more as Trinity Rodman applied the finishing touches to a slick team move, but VAR intervened and Smith was judged to be narrowly offside in the buildup.
The second half began in much the same vain as the first, with Smith firing narrowly wide and Bronze finding the side netting following a bursting Hemp run.
The USA saw a penalty decision overturned by VAR after Rose Lavelle’s strike had been incorrectly judged to strike the arm of Hemp in the latter stages of the second period, and Ella Toone and Smith blazed over at either end as the clock ticked down, but there was to be no more drama as England saw out the victory.
GK: Mary Earps – 6/10 – Got a palm to Smith’s opener but couldn’t keep it out. Was put under pressure in her own box with the ball at her feet on a number of occasions, and although she initially looked tentative, her distribution was largely strong.
RB: Lucy Bronze – 7/10 – Began the move from which England opened the scoring with a clever pass inside to Stanway. Looked really lively going forward, particularly in the first half.
CB: Millie Bright – 6/10 – Somewhat played Stanway into trouble deep in the England half in the build up to the USA equaliser. Popped up with a pivotal interception moments later to prevent Lavelle sliding Smith in. Constantly tested by the lively Smith.
CB: Alex Greenwood – 6/10 – Really tested by the impressive Smith, who asked plenty of questions of the England backline with her constant runs in behind.
LB: Rachel Daly – 6/10 – Caused a few problems by the lively Rodman, but produced a fabulous last ditch tackle to keep out the USA forward in the second half.
CM: Keira Walsh – 8/10 – Effortlessly cool in possession, helping to play England out of trouble on numerous occasions. Produced a fabulous touch turn to worm away from two USA players in first half.
CM: Georgia Stanway – 7/10 – Sent Mead scurrying away in build up to opener. Dispossessed by Horan on the edge of the England box as the USA levelled but atoned for her error by coolly burying her spot kick. Fired narrowly over in the second half after a trademark driving run.
CM: Fran Kirby (67′ for Toone) – 6/10 – Near and tidy, linked play well and looked dangerous when picking up the ball in pockets of space and driving at the USA backline.
RW: B*th Mead – 7/10 – Tested Naeher in the early exchanges. Set up the opener with a wicked delivery from the right.
ST: Lauren Hemp – 8/10 – Playing an unorthodox, central striker role but looked really impressive. Opened the scoring inside 10 minutes with a poacher’s finish and caused all sorts of problems with her pace in behind.
LW: Chloe Kelly (90′ for James) – 6/10 – Bent an effort from the edge of the box wide after cutting inside in the second half.
SUB: Ella Toone (67′ for Kirby) – 6/10
SUB: Lauren James (90′ for Kelly) – N/A
GK: Alyssa Naeher – 6/10 – Couldn’t have done a great deal about either goal. Held a bending Mead effort well in the first half.
RB: Sofia Huerta (62′ for Dunn) – 6/10 – Had an interesting battle with Kelly – fortunate not to be punished after allowing the winger the space to cut inside and shoot with her right foot in the second half.
CB: Naomi Girma (83′ for Sauerbrunn) – 6/10 – Dealt well with the electric pace of Hemp in behind on a couple of occasions.
CB: Alana Cook – 5/10 – Failed to cut out Mead’s cross in the build up to England’s opener, not making a clean connection with the cross and allowing Hemp to nip in. Dispossessed and then beaten by Hemp as England almost added a third in the second half.
LB: Emily Fox (22′ for Mace) – 5/10 – Given the slip by Mead in the build up to England’s opener. Forced off after 22 minutes following a hefty Stanway challenge.
CM: Andi Sullivan (62′ for Coffey) – 6/10 – The quietest of the USA’s midfield three. Tidy in possession, lost track of Kirby on a couple of occasions.
CM: Lindsey Horan – 7/10 – Robbed Stanway on the edge of the box with a smart press to set up Smith her side’s equaliser and had a really intriguing, physical battle with the Bayern Munich midfielder throughout.
CM: Rose Lavelle – 7/10 – Linked up really well with Rodman throughout, so good in tight spaces.
RW: Trinity Rodman (83′ for Thompson) – 7/10 – Saw a well-taken goal narrowly disallowed for offside. Lively and dangerous.
ST: Sophia Smith – 8/10 – Fired straight at Earps early doors before levelling the scores with a low, fizzing strike from just inside the box. An effervescent performance; a constant threat with her busting runs in behind.
LW: Megan Rapinoe (83′ for Hatch) – 6/10 – Produced a fabulous flick in the build up to the USA’s disallowed goal. Saw a goal-bound effort blocked by Bright in the second half and had a good battle with Bronze.
SUB: Hailie Mace (22′ for Fox) 5/10 – Conceded the penalty from which England added a second for a high foot on Bronze.
SUB: Sam Coffey (62′ for Sullivan) – 6/10
SUB: Crystal Dunn (62′ for Huerta) – 6/10
SUB: Alyssa Thompson (83′ for Rodman) – 5/10
SUB: Ashley Hatch (83′ for Rapinoe) – 5/10
SUB: Becky Sauerbrunn (83′ for Girma) – 5/10