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Published 25 June 2022 6 min read

A special night for England but the Lionesses 'still have some things to improve'

Written by:

Frank Smith

Sarina Wiegman and Beth Mead discuss England Women's 5-1 win over the Netherlands at Elland Road

With almost 20,000 fans on their feet singing Sweet Caroline, the spirit of a home EUROs was in full force at Elland Road on Friday night. And the Lionesses lived up to the billing as they delivered an emphatic second-half performance to defeat reigning European champions the Netherlands 5-1.

But despite guiding England to an unforgettable display against her former side, head coach Sarina Wiegman stressed there are still things which need to improve ahead of July 6 and the start of a home EUROs.

Lionesses boss Wiegman said: "It was a very good game of the highest level and it was very nice to score five goals but actually we went behind for the first time and it's how we reacted to that - we needed to come back from not playing well and get the game to a high standard, so that was good.

"It shows this team has a lot of depth and so much quality. We have so many opportunities to change the game and have more impact. 

“We could keep up the tempo while the Netherlands dropped their tempo a little bit.

"I am absolutely happy, it was such a high-level game and of course, the score says a lot, that is really good, the second half was really good. 

“We are in a good place and still have some things to improve."

Few could have predicted the scoreline from Friday night's match
Few could have predicted the scoreline from Friday night's match

Wiegman, who guided the Netherlands to the European Championship in 2017, is well aware no trophies are handed out for winning pre-tournament fixtures.

But the Netherlands head coach Mark Parsons was the first to highlight that the manner in which England defeated his side in Leeds on Friday night will make the other EURO 2022 teams sit up and take notice.

As Wiegman highlighted above, this was the first time in her 13 games in charge when England have gone behind, with Lieke Martens heading in from a corner midway through the opening period.

In the first half, the home side were getting caught in possession too often and were at times wayward with their passing, as the Dutch’s high press caused England problems.

There may have been an element of fortune when Lucy Bronze’s cross found the far, top corner ten minutes later to equalise.

25 Jun 2022 10:15

England 5-1 Netherlands | Highlights

Watch as the Lionesses take on the Netherlands at Elland Road

But there was nothing fortuitous about the second half showing.

The momentum of a match can often swing based on one or two key moments and you wonder what would have happened in this contest had Sherida Spitse’s spot-kick for the Netherlands seven minutes into the second half not hit the outside of Mary Earps’ post.

Within a minute, the tables had turned, England were on the break and Lauren Hemp produced a fine cross from the left to pick out Beth Mead at the far post to put her team in front.

Mead’s introduction at half-time proved pivotal and so did the triple substitution of Ella TooneAlessia Russo and Georgia Stanway just after the hour mark.

The energy injected by the trio overwhelmed the tiring opposition and their coach Parsons admitted he didn’t do enough to plug the gaps.

Ella Toone was superb after her arrival as a substitute
Ella Toone was superb after her arrival as a substitute

Toone added a curled third, Hemp a looping fourth and Mead rounded it off with a deserved fifth.

For Mead, it has been a remarkable 12 months. 

The Arsenal forward has gone from the heartbreak of missing out on last summer’s Olympic Games to breaking a 61-year-old England record held by Jimmy Greaves for scoring the most goals in a season, after adding her 13th and 14th on Friday night.

Mead said: "I am enjoying my football right now and that is showing on the pitch – I’m just glad I can help the team today.

“Lauren [Hemp] did all the hard work, I was just in the right place.

Beth Mead was a catalyst for England's second-half performance
Beth Mead was a catalyst for England's second-half performance

"We didn't play great in the first half, we were sleepy and sloppy on the ball. But we reacted really well to the penalty. 

"It is tougher opposition, the Netherlands haven't won a EUROs and got to a World Cup Final for no reason, so it shows the quality. 

"These games are for learning but winning and playing well is the confidence we need heading into the EUROs."

In her press conference after the match, Wiegman spoke of the importance of everyone remaining grounded as they go in search of glory next month.

But as the players walked around the pitch after the final whistle, with thousands of adoring young fans cheering their names, everyone inside Elland Road knew they had witnessed a very special night.

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