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  • Writer's pictureBethany Barker

Crucial Comeback: A Must-Win Game of Two Halves

Friday's game proved to be a game of two halves as the Lionesses produced a thrilling win in a second-half comeback following a frosty first-half

Monday 5th December 2023


Team GB's chances of Olympic qualification hung in the balance of the Lioneses' last game against the Leeuwinnen in a 'must-win' game at Wembley in front of a record crowd (in the Nations League) of 71,632; the game saw a last-minute winner by Ella Toone keep the team's hopes alive after two goals in two minutes prior through Georgia Stanway and Lauren Hemp as the home side fought back from Lineth Beerensteyn’s first-half goals.

This Nations League game fell on the 50th anniversary of the first game between the two teams (1973) which was played in front of 2,015 fans, who witnessed a 1-0 win for England at Elm Park, also marking the first England Women's international held at a league ground. To mark this occasion, members of both teams were invited to Wembley where they held a guard of honour for the current players:

Match Recap:

Early in the game, England prevented the Dutch from growing into the game by creating a high press and creating some decent chances; Lauren Hemp- on her 50th cap- was able to get the ball over the Dutch defence to find Lauren James, whose header was sent wide. Followed by Chloe Kelly meeting Niamh Charles' cross to head it just past the post. Then the Lionesses' first shot on target was created when James was able to create space through the middle and find Hemp whose shot was tipped behind by Daphne van Domselaar. The Dutch attack took advantage of their goal kick, as Victoria Pelova- also on her 50th cap- broke into the England half down the right as Lineth Beerensteyn got herself in between Jess Carter and Lucy Bronze to fire the visitors ahead in the 12th minute. The defensive pressure for England had to be increased as Mary Earps had to clear the ball away before Danielle van de Donk fired her shot wide. The visitors nearly had two when Sherida Spitse’s corner found Jill Roord, who tried to cross the ball back into the middle where it dipped onto the crossbar, out for another corner. The Lionesses then struggled to clear away a bouncing ball, which wasn't cleared by Carter, which was won by Beerensteyn who hit a low tame shot past Earps, doubling their lead. Earps almost dove backwards to clear the ball but it is sent underneath her hands into the goal.

The second half kicked off with a welcomed England change as Beth Mead made her international return; a positive restart by the hosts starts as Charles and James combine down the left side to create more of a chance, which is then followed up with a good hold-up play from Fran Kirby who sets up James for a shot which is hit over the bar. An early second-half goal begins the Lionesses' comeback as James cuts inside and chips the ball to an unmarked Georgia Stanway who headers it into the bottom corner. The frosty first half was soon forgotten by the Wembley crowd as Mead fired a cross to Stanway who found Hemp to draw the game through a curling ball which went in off the post; creating two goals in two minutes. The two goals allowed England to have bodies forward to continue the attack and keep the qualifying hopes alive. Following the goals, Wiegman put on the 'Euro 2022 super subs' are on- Alessia Russo and Ella Toone- to replace Kirby and Stanway which gave the team an increase in energy to be able to go all out in attack. With both sides wanting a win, more warning shots were fired in both areas, but Earps was able to dive to her left to deny Lieke Martens. James lifted a cross into Toone who blasted the ball through Daphne van Domselaar's legs, firing a close-range shot to send the home side in front for the first time.

As It Happened:


GOAL: Beerensteyn (0-1)


GOAL: Beerensteyn (0-2)




GOAL: Stanway (1-2)


GOAL: Hemp (2-2)


GOAL: Toone (3-2)



Player of the Match- Lauren Hemp on getting her 50th cap:

"It's pretty surreal and it would be a surreal feeling to get my 50th cap. There's no better place to do it than Wembley so it would be an incredible feeling if I was able to do that. Every cap is special to me, but obviously to make 50 would just be incredible. If you told me that when I was younger, that at 23 you'd make 50 caps, I don't think I'd believe you. So, it would be an amazing occasion for me to be able to do that but we'll just have to wait and see."

Match Statistics:









Shots on Target



Corners Won



Mary Earps on the team's performance:

“I thought the girls were unbelievable, to come back into the game like that... I am just sorry that my performance has cost my team tonight. That will haunt me for a long time. I have really let the team down today and I am really gutted, I am really really gutted because it could have been a really special night at Wembley. The goals were unbelievable... the girls were phenomenal.”

Elsewhere in the Nations League:

  • Already qualified: Spain and France

  • Could still qualify: Netherlands, England, Belgium, Germany, Denmark

  • Promoted from League B: Finland, Poland, Republic of Ireland

  • Confirmed in League A/B play-offs: Iceland, Serbia

  • Relegated from League B: Albania, Belarus, Romania

  • Promoted from League C: Azerbaijan, Kosovo, Turkey

What it Means:

With only three European slots available in the Olympics- this year only two as France automatically qualifies as hosts- it could see some of the leading teams missing out as the two finalists of the Nations League will only qualify. As it stands, France and Spain have won their groups which could mean if England tops their group they will play either one of them or Germany/Denmark. This means England will need to beat the Dutch result by three goals or more to top the group.

Up Next:

England vs Scotland

Date: 5th December

KO: 7:45pm

At: Hampden Park

Netherlands vs Belgium

Date: 5th December

KO: 7:45pm

At: Koning Willem II Stadion

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