A record crowd of 87,192 fans for the European Championship final – men’s or women’s – watched Chloe Kelly’s first international goal to lead the Lionesses to victory over the eight-time winner.
After three defeats at the last hurdle, goals from Kelly and Ella Tone ruled out Lina Magul’s goal and made a dream come true at the end of the championship with an amazing race.
And despite having beaten Germany only twice in their previous 27 encounters, Wegmann’s players have struggled for a tough victory to widen the Dutchman’s impressive streak.
The agony of injury to Bob
Germany suffered a tragic blow moments before kick-off when star Alexandra Pope, the tournament’s top scorer with six goals, suffered a muscle injury during the warm-up period.
He was initially replaced by Leah Schuller, which marked a devastating end to what had been an intimate story of redemption for the 31-year-old. Having missed the previous two Euros through injury, Bob made up for lost time emphatically, matching the record for the tournament’s best goal tally – set by fellow countryman Enka Grings in 2009 – while keeping a game.
Bob’s visible pain as she left the field was a stark contrast to the cheery atmosphere of the all-sold Wembley Stadium as kick-off approached, as singers Becky Hill, Stiflon Dawn and Ultra Nati moved to the center circle to host the previous match. Show match.
With the area around the grounds bustling with fans and flags several hours before kick-off, it was a fitting pile-up to wrap up a record-breaking tournament long before the trophy was lifted.
A total of 487,683 fans attended the matches prior to the final, more than double the previous record for tournament attendance set at Euro 2017 in the Netherlands.
And that was before the historic records increase at Wembley, who broke the current record for the men’s or women’s European Championship final at Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu in 1964.
Buoyed by domestic support, England began to advance. Fran Kirby grabbed an early opportunity with a thrilling cross pass to Ellen White at the back post, but the Manchester City striker could only head into the arms of Merle Froms.
This will be White’s first streak of chances in the first half of a handful of stunning opportunities, with both defenders continuing an iron-fist form that has seen them reach Wembley having conceded only once in all tournaments.
Exacerbated by the rapid succession of yellow cards to Georgia Stanway and White, frustration soon turned into fear for England as a corner kick triggered a massacre on the goal line. The ball swung inches from the line and seemed destined to settle into the net before England goalkeeper Mary Earps gratefully chokes on it.
Dealing with players’ complaints would set the stage for a busy day for referee Katrina Monzol, who was shown six yellow cards and suspended for 36 fouls during a grueling combat match.
England’s best chance in the first half came five minutes before the break as a cut by Beth Mead sent White into the penalty area, but the lopsided 33-year-old was unable to keep her shot.
It was Germany’s turn to come out of the blocks after the restart, with Tapia Wassmouth almost penalizing Millie Bright for misunderstanding just two minutes into the second half. But after shooting far down the left, Wassmuth could only shoot directly at Earps.
Wegmann slammed the changes as Germany continued their fast start, and Kirby and White made way for Tony and Alicia Russo. With four goals – all off the bench – Russo was the unofficial ‘golden’ alternative to the semi-final, but it was Toon who stole the crown at Wembley.
After a perfectly burly long ball from Keira Walsh split Germany’s defence, the Manchester United forward found herself in a clear position, facing off against Frohms’ impulsive style. What is her response? The most luxurious chips that were raised above the goalkeeper and in.
If the finish was brilliant, the response was anything but, as Wembley erupted in euphoric scenes not seen under the arc since Luke Shaw’s goal fired the men’s team in an early lead at the opposite end of the field just over a year ago.
Like so many England championships before, that story ended in tears, and another painful chapter in the trajectory seemed to be written when Magul fired a well-deserved equalizer 10 minutes from time.
With Wiegman’s side retreating deeper to protect their advantage, the pressure finally broke when a well-worked move saw Wassmuth slip into the Bayern Munich midfielder at the near post, who cleverly lunged at the net ceiling to level.
Magul finally approached normal time again, with the jubilant atmosphere replaced only minutes earlier by nervous tension, momentarily broken by the rousing reception of Jill Scott’s introduction.
In replacing Georgia Stanway, the 35-year-old midfielder became the first English footballer to play in two finals of international tournaments.
Tensions flared during a nervous extra time that saw few chances and many loose saves, as Scott engaged in a furious exchange with Sidney Le Mans after the German faltered.
With legs tired and penalty kicks close, England forced a corner kick 10 minutes before to play. Lucy Bronze dropped the ball in Kelly’s way who, after a miss, put the ball over the line to score her first international goal at the most appropriate time.
Cue pure nonsense, paused due to Kelly pausing to check with referee Munzoll that her goal counted. Her shirt was ripped off in celebration, and the 24-year-old was given what would surely be the most heartfelt yellow card she’s ever received in her career.
The tireless effort to keep the ball in the corner continued throughout the hour as Wembley fans insisted their players cross the line, and Monzol’s final whistle sounded its biggest roar yet.
Just in time, “Three Lions” blew through the stadium’s speakers. After 56 years of mischief, football – at last – is back home.
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