England dominate USWNT on night of women power and unity at Wembley


LONDON — Playing in front of a large and boisterous crowd at Wembley Stadium, the United States and England women’s national soccer teams met in a friendly Friday that carried a call and a message reaching far across the beyond the field.

Before kick-off, players from both teams gathered holding a banner that read ‘Protect the players’ – a show of solidarity at the end of a week in which an investigation report damning abuse and misconduct in the National Women’s Soccer League has been released. Players wore teal armbands to support victims of abuse.

“If we’re not protected in the right way, then nothing else really matters,” said US star Megan Rapinoe. “For us to come together and take a moment on a night like this, I think is really important and powerful.”

Her teammate Crystal Dunn said: “It’s important that we realize this is a deeply rooted global issue in women’s sport. Both teams together show that we are fighting this together.

The smooth occasion took place in front of an audience of 76,893, reflecting the growing interest in women’s football in England, where this summer the national team won the European Championship for the first time.

The good vibes continued into the evening as the fourth-ranked Lionesses beat No.1 USA 2-1, extending the hosts’ winning streak to 15 and ending the streak of visitors at 13.

Going into the day unbeaten in 21 straight games, the Americans lost for the first time since the 2021 Olympic semifinals in Japan.

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Lauren Hemp scored for England in the 10th minute, and after Sophia Smith equalized in the 28th minute, Georgia Stanway restored the lead four minutes later from a penalty.

Washington Spirit star Trinity Rodman scored an apparent equalizer in the 36th minute, but after video review detected an offside violation by the narrowest margin in a formidable United States build-up , the goal was canceled.

Both teams are preparing for the World Cup, which will take place next summer in Australia and New Zealand. Friday’s friendly match offered a glimpse of a possible final.

“The fear factor is gone,” said Anita Asante, who played for England from 2004 to 2018. “There is still a high degree of respect for the United States – the players and the talent.”

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The Lionesses, she added, came into the game thinking, “We can compete with the best in the world.

Asante was among the former Lionesses invited to the pitch ahead of kick-off in honor of the program’s 50th anniversary. The Football Association, the sport’s governing body in England, banned women’s football in 1921, saying it was “utterly unsuitable for women”. The team’s first official match took place in 1972 on a muddy pitch in Scotland.

The last time the Lionesses played at Wembley was at the end of July when they lifted the European trophy. And there were many reminders of that victory on Friday. The stadium announcer mentioned it several times, driving the crowd crazy. There was also a sea of ​​banners outside the stadium depicting the players with a ‘Champions of Europe’ message.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of this in this football-mad country. England hadn’t celebrated a major international trophy of any kind since the men’s team won the 1966 World Cup. This year, the women not only exorcised that ghost, but also connected with the audience and young girls on an emotional level.

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Linzi Burnside, 30, a kindergarten teacher, took tickets on the first – and only – day they were available before all general admission tickets sold out. She brought three aspiring professional players – two 10-year-olds, one 9-year-old – with her, saying she was inspired to come after England’s recent success and show her daughters “what they can do. do if they work hard”.

She added: “It’s always been a boy’s game; there is such a stigma about girls playing. But she said that was changing. “Little girls say, ‘I’ll try.’ ”

There was a feminine atmosphere in the stadium. At halftime, fans were on their feet singing Shania Twain’s hit song, “Man!” I feel like a woman!”

Shortly after kick-off, they had plenty to celebrate. England counter-attacked with speed and precision on the right flank. Beth Mead curled a low cross into the penalty area. USA defender Alana Cook failed to defuse the situation with her sliding effort, leaving the ball for Hemp to slip past goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher.

It was the United States’ first deficit since losing 1-0 to Canada at the Olympics 14 months ago.

The Americans even tied on a 10th goal of the year from Smith, 22, a natural winger who started as a striker in place of injured star Alex Morgan.

Lindsey Horan created the opportunity, pressing Stanway from behind deep in England. Horan tapped the ball past Smith, who turned at the top of the box and fired a low shot past diving keeper Mary Earps and into the left corner.

England responded. USA defender Hailie Mace lifted her foot and grabbed Lucy Bronze in the face. Play continued, but after the video replay a penalty was awarded. Stanway converted.

Four minutes later, at the end of an end-to-end streak, Rodman appeared to equalize with a shot from 10 yards, set up by Smith and Rapinoe. Again there was a video review and referee Reim Hussein ruled Smith slightly offside.

“I’m not sure the second goal was offside – the footage looks a bit suspicious,” Rapinoe said with a laugh.

In the second half, Hussein awarded the United States a penalty, but after reviewing the game she changed the decision. It was the right decision because the ball had hit Hemp in the back, not in the arm.

The Americans created some decent chances in the second half but didn’t seriously test England goalkeeper Mary Earps. Despite the loss, US coach Vlatko Andonovski said the game proved beneficial ahead of Tuesday’s visit to number 8 Spain and two home friendlies next month against second-placed Germany .

“We came here to face a good opponent; we got it,” he said. “We came here to experience adversity; we have that. We came here to experience a hostile environment; we have that. So [the game] definitely checks all the boxes. Now we have to go back to the drawing board and improve.

Goff reported from Washington.


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