England go through as group winners after a 2-1 win against Portugal with Spain losing all of their finger nails as well as three points to Scotland.
Scotland had an outside chance of qualifying if they beat Spain and Portugal lost to England. Spain looked nervous early on but continue to play football according to their own philosophy. Lots of patient ball possession but without any kind of real threat up front. After just five minutes into the game, Scotland’s goalkeeper Gemma Fay made a meal of the Spanish free kick by failing to catch a simple delivery and instead it bounced onto the post and away from danger. Fay did recover from that little blip in the 35th minute after a good corner saw Irene Paredes rise above the rest to head the ball towards goal only to find Fay equal to it.
As the game wore on the pressure began to show on some players. Spain’s goalkeeper Sandra Paños seemingly had a rush of blood to the head as she came rushing out to help her defence clear a long, bouncing ball over the top. She failed to deal with it effectively and the loose ball fell to Caroline Weir. Weir moved inside the box with the ball and struck it hard and low, but straight at Paredes, who, surprisingly failed to stop the ball going in as it hit the inside of her leg and bundled into the left-hand corner of the goal. 1-0 to Scotland after 41 minutes.
Spain pressed in the second half but only managed to carve out a few opportunities to score. Silvia Meseguer gathered the ball in midfield in the 64th minute, moved the ball onto her left foot and let rip at the Scottish goal as her shot smashed the woodwork with Scottish hearts in their mouths. Alexia Putellas probably had the best chance of the second half for Spain to equalise. A neat cross across the six-yard area was met by Putellas who headed both the ball and the defender’s foot towards Fay who produced a magnificent reaction save with her defence heading the rebound clear to ensure Scotland’s first win of the tournament.
The Lionesses made 10 changes to their starting 11 as England would have had to lose 3-0 to Portugal to give other teams a chance of knocking them out. It was also a good move to ensure key players were given a rest before their highly anticipated clash against France on Sunday. Mark Sampson’s move proved to be working early on thanks to a mistake from Patricia Morais whose poor kick hit Toni Duggan on the back of her legs as she was running in the opposite direction. The Barcelona striker reacted quickly, turned and lofted the ball over everyone else into the back of the net. 1-0 England after just seven minutes. Despite the gift early on England’s second string XI showed why they were second string. They failed to hold onto the ball and create any kind of fluency with their play and some poor defending allowed Portugal back into the game.
Portugal rallied and after 17 minutes they equalised thanks to Carolina Mendes latching onto a fine cross across the box from Diana Silva. Siobhan Chamberlain had no chance. Early into the second half the Lionesses took a large chunk out of Portugal’s resolve and hope as Duggan’s lofted pass created space for Nikita Parris to burst into. Her pace, power, and balance created problems for the Portuguese defence who couldn’t cope and Parris slotted the ball home past Morais who couldn’t keep the ball out. England move through to the quarter finals as group winners with France waiting for them. Spain just about scraped through in rather poor fashion as they will face a very impressive Austria. Both teams will need to improve now that we reach the quarter final stage as the pressure will really be on to perform.