England Women feed off Wembley energy to beat US

England Women rode a wave of euphoria to beat world champions the United States 2-1 on Friday in their first match at Wembley since they were crowned European champions in July.

An early goal from Lauren Hemp and a Georgia Stanway penalty either side of a Sophia Smith strike propelled England to their first win over the US since 2017, laying down a marker for next year’s World Cup.

The build-up to the friendly in London was overshadowed by the damning revelations in a report detailing “systemic” sexual abuse and misconduct in the US domestic game.

Players from both teams wore teal-coloured armbands as a show of solidarity with victims of sexual abuse, gathering behind a banner that said “Protect the Players” before kick-off.

A crowd of nearly 77,000 applauded warmly before the decibel count rose sharply as lashing rain in London relented and the fans were treated to an incident-packed match.

“That was really intense, just what we wanted,” England coach Sarina Wiegman told ITV Sport. “USA played as we expected, they gave us hard times sometimes. I thought we played well in moments, better first half than second.”

She was asked whether England were now favourites for next year’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

“The target is there all the time,” said Wiegman, who remains undefeated in 23 games. “Whatever happens we know this is just a starting point for the World Cup, but it shows you are at a very high level.”

– ‘Proud of players’ –

US coach Vlatko Andonovski hailed his team after a testing week off the pitch.

“I’m very proud of my players to play this game after everything that happened,” he said. “Their mental toughness showed tonight.”

England, backed by a raucous home crowd still basking in the glory of their Euro 2022 triumph two months ago, went ahead in the 10th minute when Hemp poked the ball past Alyssa Naeher after a fine run from Beth Mead.

US defender Alana Cook appeared to be in a position to deal with the danger but got into a tangle and the ball fell kindly for Hemp, whose finish sent Wembley into raptures.

But the visitors were level just before the half-hour mark, aided by some sloppy England defending.

Stanway, receiving the ball under pressure, was dispossessed by Lindsey Horan and the ball fell to Smith, who finished powerfully past the despairing dive of Mary Earps.

As play switched ends, Stanway quickly made amends, putting England back in front with a 33rd-minute penalty awarded by VAR.

The spot-kick was given after Hailie Mace’s high boot made contact with Lucy Bronze’s face. Referee Riem Hussein pointed to the spot after watching the incident back on the pitchside monitor.

In a see-saw game, the visitors celebrated what appeared to be a fine equaliser when Trinity Rodman swept home following a surge down the right by Smith, with Megan Rapinoe nudging the ball into the path of Rodman.

But US celebrations were cut short when the goal was ruled out by VAR for a tight offside call.

The dangerous Smith had a chance to equalise early in the second half but dragged her shot wide and a Rapinoe effort was deflected for a corner.

The US made a double change, bringing on Sam Duffey and Crystal Dunn, who gave birth to a son as recently as May.

The visitors were awarded a penalty with about 10 minutes to go but VAR again came to England’s rescue, clearly showing the ball had hit Hemp’s backside.

Andonovski made a number of late substitutions as his side chased an equaliser but their last chance came and went when Smith volleyed over the bar.

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