England Women were brought down to earth by a classy German side after the eight-time European champions ran out 3-0 winners at Wembley Stadium.
The stage was set for a memorable afternoon, with a record 45,619 crowd in attendance to see the Three Lions’ first match at the famous stadium since it re-opened in 2007. It was also the occasion of Karen Carney’s 100th cap. England had won all their 10 World Cup qualifiers en route to the 2015 World Cup in Canada and came into the match on a high but Mark Sampson’s team were beaten by three first half goals. The first was a deflection off Alex Scott as she struggled to keep out Simone Laudehr’s header, then the German Captain, Celia Sasis added two more.
England had won all their qualifiers but so too had Germany and in truth the German side were not only very skillful, but they were big and fast and out-muscled England all over the pitch. Eni Aluko was effectively nullified as successive crosses were cut out by the German defence.
The Lionesses were unable to launch a comeback against the two-time world champions and the wait for a win over Germany has now stretched to 20 matches. But a bumper crowd had braved the downpours to be a part of this historic event and they were treated to a pulsating opening period. And it may have been a different story if Jordan Nobbs terrific 25 yard strike just seconds after kick off had gone in instead of rattling the cross bar.
It was a frenetic start and the opening goal came in the sixth minute as Laudehr arrived at the near post to head Behringer’s corner towards goal, only for the ball to brush off Scott and past Bardsley.
Things got worse for England before the quarter-hour mark as Sasic capitalised on a mix-up between Fara Williams and Steph Houghton on the halfway line, raced clear down the left and clipped the ball beyond the advancing Bardsley.
Rattled by those early setbacks, Sampson’s side were unable to get a foothold in the game but attempted to break at speed at every attempt. On one such occasion, Scott scampered down the right and picked out Nobbs with her cross. The 21-year-old’s looping header was caught by Almuth Schult who stumbled backwards but not far enough over the goal-line.
Schult was called into action once more before the break to smother Williams’ 18-yard effort on the half volley. But there was still time for Germany to extend their lead, and ultimately complete the win, as Sasic grabbed her second of the game on the stroke of half time, heading home Tabea Kemme’s pinpoint centre.
Substitute Fran Kirby, on for Eniola Aluko, was a stride away from having a clean strike at goal on the edge of the box but she slipped before making contact – and fellow sub Jodie Taylor dragged a shot wide of the target soon after. Then Jill Scott fired into the side-netting and Houghton headed wide in the final minute as England looked for a goal to mark the occasion.
There will be plenty of positives to take from this match, England having received an challenging test to make them very aware, if they weren’t already, of the standard necessary to compete at the highest level. Carney herself said at the end of the match that they have learnt a lot and will come back fitter, faster and stronger, and she is confident they can do that. The excitement of the day also meant that the Lionesses lost some of their composure which resulted in frequent loss of possession, but these are things that can be built on and remedied in the six months before the World Cup in June.
Starting line-up for England:
England Women: 1 Karen Bardsley (Manchester City), 2 Alex Scott (Arsenal), 5 Steph Houghton (C; Manchester City), 6 Lucy Bronze (Manchester City), 3 Demi Stokes (South Florida Bulls), 7 Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal), 4 Fara Williams (Liverpool), 8 Karen Carney (Birmingham City), 9 Lianne Sanderson (Arsenal), 10 Toni Duggan (Manchester City), 11 Eniola Aluko (Chelsea).
Substitutes: 19 Fran Kirby (Reading) for Aluko (62), 18 Jill Scott (Manchester City) for Williams (71), 20 Jodie Taylor (Washington Spirit) for Sanderson (80), 16 Jo Potter (Birmingham City) for Scott (84), 14 Alex Greenwood (Everton) for Stokes (84), 12 Laura Bassett (Chelsea) for Bronze (90)
Substitutes not used: 13 Siobhan Chamberlain (Arsenal), 15 Claire Rafferty (Chelsea), 17 Jade Moore (Birmingham City), 21 Carly Telford (Notts County), 22 Jess Clarke (Notts County).
Head coach: Mark Sampson
Germany: 12 Almuth Schult, 3 Josephine Henning, 5 Annike Krahn, 6 Simone Laudehr, 7 Melanie Behringer, 13 Celia Sasic (C), 14 Tabea Kemme, 16 Melanie Leupolz, 17 Jennifer Cramer, 18 Alexandra Popp, 20 Lena Goessling.
Substitutes: 10 Dzsenifer Marozsan for Behringer (46), 22 Luisa Wenseng for Kemme (46), 11 Anja Mittag for Leupolz (46), 8 Pauline Bremer for Laudehr (76), 4 Babett Peter for Cramer (89), 23 Verena Faisst for Sasic (89)
Substitutes not used: 21 Laura Benkarth, 28 Lisa Weiss, 29 Meike Kamper, 2 Bianca Schmidt, 15 Kathrin Hendrich, 24 Lena Petermann, 25 Sara Dabritz.
Goals: Scott (OG,6), Sasic (12, 45)
Bookings: Mittag (58)
Head coach: Silvia Neid
Referee: Esther Staubli