England vs. USA – Soccer Match Report – October 7, 2022

European champions England scored a rare 2-1 win over World Cup holders the US Women’s National Team in a pulsating friendly at London’s Wembley Stadium on Friday.

In front of a sell-out crowd of nearly 77,000, the on-field entertainment more than lived up to the hype, particularly in a thrilling three-goal first half. Lauren Hemp and a Georgia Stanway penalty gave England the goals they needed, either side of a Sophia Smith goal that briefly brought the Americans level.

There was also controversy when the USA were denied a second equalizer before the break when the video assistant referee ruled it out for offside in the build-up.

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“They are an incredible team and they showed once again that they are very good,” USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski said of England afterwards. “If you give them some space, they have players who can make a difference.

“They have an incredible coach who has done a very good job ever since she got here and I wouldn’t mind facing them in the final again.”

“It was an intense match, very competitive, as we expected,” England coach Sarina Wiegman said. “We both played to score goals. We’re not winning a World Cup now – it’s great to have this moment in this environment to prepare for the World Cup next year.”

Preparations for the game had been dominated by the release earlier this week of a report by Sally Yates detailing systemic abuse and misconduct in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). Players from both teams united before kickoff in a sign of solidarity with victims of sexual abuse, holding a banner reading “Protect the Players” and wearing teal armbands.

The American players had spoken of the game as a welcome distraction from a grueling few days, and once the whistle blew the intensity on the pitch was far beyond a normal friendly. This was, after all, a rematch of the 2019 World Cup semi-final, won by the Americans, and a meeting between American and English teams that had gone 23 and 22 games unbeaten respectively.

It was also a chance for both teams to gauge where their preparations stand for next year’s World Cup.

England, who had already fired a warning shot, had the home crowd cheering after just 10 minutes. Euro 2022 Golden Boot winner Beth Mead was the creator, breaking out on the right and sending in a low cross. American defender Alana Cook failed to intercept the ball, only slowing it into the path of Hemp, who had a simple finish from six yards.

It was the first time the United States had trailed in a game since last year’s Olympic semifinal against Canada, which was also the last time the Americans had been beaten. The deficit could have been quickly doubled as well, but this time Hamp’s shot was blocked in front of goal.

However, Smith began to make her presence felt on the other end. With Alex Morgan unavailable due to injury, the Portland Thorns forward started in the middle of the American forward line.

And she quickly showed the lethal touch in front of goal that saw her score 14 times in 18 NWSL games this year. Lindsey Horan robbed Stanway as England tried to play out of the back and the ball fell to Smith who instantly turned on the edge of the area before firing into the bottom corner of the net to level the scores.

It didn’t take long for Stanway to atone for his mistake and continue a breathless first half. Less than five minutes after the USA had drawn level, the referee was called over to review a high boot by Hallie Mace, on for the injured Emily Fox, on England’s Lucy Bronze just inside the area.

A penalty kick was duly awarded and Stanway made no mistake, sending American goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher the wrong way.

If the USWNT were unhappy with the involvement of VAR in that instance, their frustration was multiplied minutes later. The visitors thought they had equalized once more after a glorious attacking move ended with Megan Rapinoe stumping a Smith cross into the path of Trinity Rodman, who finished at the back post. However, a lengthy VAR review ruled that Smith had been offside in the build-up by the narrowest of margins, although replays did not give a clear view.

The drama continued early in the second half, with Bronze and Smith coming close to adding to the scoring at both ends.

With less than 10 minutes remaining, the referee pointed to the spot for a penalty kick to the USA, but replays showed the ball had clearly hit the back and not the hemp’s arm, and the call was quickly overturned.

Still looking for an equalizer, Andonovski turned to 17-year-old high school senior Alyssa Thompson, who became the youngest USWNT debutant since 2016.

But there was to be another twist as England scored just their fifth win in 19 meetings with the four-time World Cup winners.

However, Wiegman insists that her team will not be carried away by talk that England has now surpassed the USA as the best in the women’s game.

“You’re the best team in the world when you’ve won the World Cup – we didn’t,” she said. “It’s so close – there are so many good countries and it’s tight.

“We have to keep doing it and work hard and get our plans. You have to be a bit lucky when you go to a World Cup – you have to have everyone fit and available. You have seen our team grow a lot and it’s nice to see, but we’re taking some things out that we really need to do better.”

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