Sarina Wiegman secured her first ever victory over the United States as England defeated the reigning World champions 2-1 at Wembley Stadium.
A strike from Lauren Hemp and a Georgia Stanway penalty were enough to gain the Lionesses a huge confidence boost ahead of next summer’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand
In a night that celebrated half a century of the Lionesses, the current stars put on a show as they were able to get revenge against The Stars and Stripes for their 2019 World Cup semi-final heartbreak.
It was a ferocious battle between the newly-crowned European champions against the World Cup winners with a lot of interchanging action in the midfield and plenty of end-to-end action. There were VAR calls for two penalty decisions, a disallowed goal, aggressive challenges and two fine teams on show.
While both teams were nowhere near their best due to the amount of chances they wasted, England gave a good showing of themselves as they proved that they can match the team that have dominated the rest of the world for the past seven years. They have certainly shown how much they have evolved under Dutch boss Wiegman as they stretched their unbeaten run under her stewardship to 23 games. Whereas for the visitors, this was their first defeat in 22 matches.
It was good to see that she sets her players up to play on the front foot no matter the opposition and their playing out from the back was able to beat the US press quite frequently.
Sophia Smith had a great chance in the opening stages as a group of England players were caught out, leaving acres of space for Smith to work her way into the box. She had the option to pass the ball but she went for the shot, which was gathered by Mary Earps.
England’s Player of the Year Beth Mead had the Lionesses first chance as she tried to curl one from outside the box, but her effort was straight into the arms of Alyssa Naeher. The Lionesses grabbed the opening goal moments later as Hemp pounced on a failed block to slot the ball into the back of the net.
Despite looking bright when bursting forward, the hosts were too complacent when trying to pass out from the back, which ultimately led to the United States equalising. Millie played the ball to an under-pressure Stanway who had her pocket picked. The ball found its way to Smith who made no mistake in finding the bottom corner.
England later regained their lead after a late VAR check awarded a penalty for a high boot from Hailie Mace on Lucy Bronze. Stanway then coolly placed the penalty in the bottom-right corner.
The US thought they had scored a brilliant leveller moments later as Megan Rapinoe backheeled the ball into the path of Trinity Rodman who found the bottom corner with her first-time shot, only for VAR to rule it out for the tightest of offsides.
There was plenty more back and forth action in the second half, with both teams squandering some promising opportunities. There was further drama late on when the US were awarded a penalty for handball, only for VAR to correctly rule it out as it had struck Hemp on her backside. It got cagey towards the end but the hosts defended resolutely to hold out for the win.
It may have been a friendly, but the intensity that both sides played with were as though it was a World Cup final, which made it fine viewing for the fans inside Wembley and for those watching at home.