England WU17s suffer late heartbreak in Under-17 EURO semi-final
Match report from England women's under-17s' UEFA Women's Under-17 Championship semi-final with Spain
England WU17s suffered last-gasp heartbreak in their UEFA Women’s Under-17 Championship semi-final as Spain twice scored in the final minutes of the match to book their place in Friday’s final.
Spain had once again taken the lead early on through Vicky López and could have been out of sight by half-time as they dominated the opening period.
But England responded superbly at the break and equalised through Katie Reid’s header.
The game looked as though it was going to penalties until Spain scored twice in the 88th and first minute of injury time to ensure it would be the reigning Under-17 world champions who face France in Friday night’s EURO final in Estonia.
Head coach Mo Marley made five changes to the starting XI who finished the group stage with a 1-1 draw against France, with goalkeeper Sophia Poor and the tournament’s joint top goalscorer Michelle Agyemang among those to return.
Spain’s tendency to start games well has been a constant theme throughout the tournament, scoring inside a minute in their first match against Germany and then finding the net inside the opening ten minutes of their other two group games.
And Spain’s excellent López scored an early goal once again versus England, as the Barcelona star powerfully headed home Cris’ cross from the right inside five minutes.
Spain are the reigning Under-17 World Cup holders, having won last year’s tournament in India, and have reached the final of the Under-17 EURO final in nine of the 11 editions, winning on four occasions.
And the quality of Kenio Gonzalo’s side was evident throughout a dominant first half, as their impressive press and quality possession meant the Young Lionesses struggled to get a foothold in the match.
Poor needed to make several saves in the first half, with the stop to deny Ainhoa Alguacil particularly impressive, and when López did beat finally beat the Leicester City goalkeeper, her stunning free-kick rattled the crossbar.
England started the second period much better though and within 90 seconds of the restart had seen a dangerous cross from the right cleared and Laila Harbert fire the resulting shot over the bar.
The Young Lionesses were the better team early in the second half and managed to get their attacking players on the ball in dangerous areas much more often, with Agyemang also having a shot blocked.
Spain’s threat was evident when their first attack of the second half saw Poor forced into another fine stop to deny Pau when one-on-one.
But England’s second-half improvement paid dividends ten minutes after the restart when Ava Baker’s expertly-taken free-kick found Reid at the far post and she nodded in the equaliser.
The Young Lionesses nullified the threat of Spain for the majority of the second half and the game looked as though it would be heading for penalties.
But with two minutes remaining, the ball came out to Ainoa Gómez on the edge of the area and her right-footed shot took a cruel deflection off Mari Ward to put Spain 2-1 ahead.
England almost grabbed an equaliser immediately when Spain goalkeeper Alazne Estensoro was unable to cut out Baker’s low cross but her fingertips did direct the ball just away from Agyemang, who was set to score.
And the cruelty of football was evident when, with England chasing an equaliser, Spain went up the other end and made it 3-1 when Pau calmly passed the ball into the far corner to guarantee their spot in Friday night’s final with France.
England: 1 Sophia Poor (Leicester City), 2 Ria Bose (Chelsea), 3 Mari Ward (Bristol City), 4 Laila Harbert (Arsenal), 5 Katie Reid (Arsenal), 6 Zara Shaw (Liverpool), 7 Araya Dennis (Arsenal), 8 Lexi Potter (Chelsea) (c), 9 Michelle Agyemang (Arsenal), 10 Lola Brown (Chelsea), 11 Ava Baker (Leicester City),
Substitutes: 18 Erica Parkinson (SC Leixoes) for Dennis 74’, 20 Isabella Fisher (Arsenal) for Brown 90+2’
Substitutes not used: 13 Katie Cox (Chelsea), 12 Milly Round (Aston Villa), 14 Holly Deering (Manchester United), 15 Lucy Newell (West Bromwich Albion), 16 Sophie Harwood (Southampton), 19 Vera Jones (Barry Town)
Head coach: Mo Marley
Goal: Katie Reid 55’
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