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Published 22 February 2024 4 min read
Women's U23

Report: Spain 3-1 England WU23s

Written by:

Frank Smith

The Young Lionesses suffer defeat in Marbella in their first game of 2024

Aggie Beever-Jones proved a handful for the Spanish defence in the first half
Aggie Beever-Jones proved a handful for the Spanish defence in the first half
England women’s under-23s slipped to a 3-1 defeat against Spain at the Marbella Football Centre on Thursday, in the first of their two matches in February.

It was a real game of two halves for the Young Lionesses, who were the dominant team in the first 45 minutes only to find themselves level at the break before La Roja enjoyed the better of the second half and took advantage.

There were certainly plenty of positives for Emma Coates to take from the game, especially with the way England started the encounter.

They almost took an early lead within three minutes, when Freya Gregory’s in-swinging corner was met by the head of Kiera Skeels only to come crashing back off the bar and scrambled to safety.

The woodwork came to Spain’s rescue again ten minutes later, this time to deny Aggie Beever-Jones. The Chelsea striker had been tripped on the right and when captain Missy-Bo Kearns swung over the resulting free-kick, Beever-Jones guided her header at goal only to see the bar rattled again.

After such a fast start from the Young Lionesses, the hosts began to find a foothold in the game and goalkeeper Fran Stenson had her first save to make after 17 minutes.

But the Sheffield United stopper saved her best for later, when she produced a fine reaction save low to her left to deny Bruna Vilamala’s snapshot from just inside the box.

Prior to that, Inmaculada Gabarro had spurned an opportunity by firing wide from the edge of the area after a loose ball was cut out.
The Young Lionesses line-up to take on Spain in Marbella
The Young Lionesses line-up to take on Spain in Marbella
England took a deserved lead in the 42nd minute though, when a mis-placed pass out from the home goalkeeper Adriana Nanclares was nipped onto by Jessica Naz. The Spurs forward bore down on goal before pulling back for Beever-Jones to finish from close range to open the scoring.

Spain hit straight back though, as they immediately forced a corner at the other end. When that was half-cleared, Claudia Iglesias fired a low shot back into the mixer which dropped to the feet of Olhane Valdezate and the defender had the simple task of tapping home from six yards to see it all square at the break.

Spain certainly emerged for the second half with the bit between their teeth, as they piled on the pressure straight from the restart. It took another great save from Stenson within a minute of kick-off to keep England level, as she got a strong hand to Gabarro’s drive at goal following a powerful run through.

And Stenson was England’s saviour once again in the 52nd minute, when she saved Gabarro’s penalty after half-time substitute and debutant Hannah Silcock was penalised for a handball.

England’s attacking game had been largely nullified by Spain, but there was a half chance on the hour mark when Naz took advantage of some Spanish uncertainty on the ball to drive into the box. Her pass across the area found Katie Robinson, but Spain managed to get numbers back to stifle her shot.

Unfortunately for the Young Lionesses though, Spain took the lead in the 66th minute when England were caught out in possession after Stenson and Skeels traded passes in the box from a goal-kick. Vilamala pressed quickly to intercept and managed to poke the ball home from a tight angle.

The game was wrapped up after 81 minutes with the best goal of the day, when Vilamala fired home a spectacular shot to register her second of the afternoon, arrowing a left-footer into the top corner from just inside the area.

Coates and her squad will take on the Netherlands in their second match on Monday 26 February (12pm kick-off)

England: 1 Fran Stenson (Sheffield United), 2 Anouk Denton (West Ham), 3 Freya Gregory (Aston Villa), 4 Ruby Mace (Manchester City), 5 Naomi Layzell (Bristol City), 6 Kiera Skeels (Charlton Athletic), 7 Katie Robinson (Brighton & Hove Albion), 8 Missy Bo Kearns (Liverpool) (c ), 9 Aggie Beever-Jones (Chelsea), 10 Molly Pike (Southampton, 11 Jessica Naz (Tottenham Hotspur)

Substitutes: 20 Hannah Silcock (Blackburn, on loan from Liverpool) for Layzell 46, 14 Ebony Salmon (Aston Villa) for Beever-Jones 46, 12 Poppy Pattinson (Brighton & Hove Albion) for Gregory 61, 23 Laura Blindkilde Brown (Manchester City) for Kearns 72, 17 Lucia Kendall (Southampton) for Pike 72

Substitutes not used: 13 Lucy Thomas (Birmingham City), 15 Ella Morris (Southampton), 16 Mia Ross (Charlton Athletic), 18 Missy Goodwin (Leicester City), 19 Shannon O’Brien (Leicester City), 21 Ruby Grant (BK Hacken), 24 Tara Bourne (Sheffield United)

Head coach: Emma Coates

Goals: Aggie Beever-Jones 43
22 Feb 2024 2:00:00

Live stream of Spain v England WU23s

Watch the Young Lionesses take on their hosts out in Marbella. Credit: Seleccion Espanola de Futbol