England booked their place in the Euro 2022 final with a thumping 4-0 victory over pre-tournament favourites Sweden at Bramall Lane on Tuesday evening.
Goals from Beth Mead, Lucy Bronze, Alessia Russo and Fran Kirby saw the Lionesses to a surprisingly comfortable win in front of a raucous home crowd, and ensured they will contest their first major tournament final since 2009 against either France or Germany at Wembley on Sunday.
Despite the enormity of the occasion, there were no signs of nerves from either team as an open, thoroughly entertaining encounter unfolded inside the first 10 minutes. Mary Earps was called into action twice before the eight minute mark, denying Blackstenius first with her feet and then with her fingertips. From the resultant corner kick, Sweden rattled the crossbar.
England created openings of their own, enjoying particular joy down either flank – and both wide players had a helping hand as the Lionesses took the lead after 33 minutes. Ellen White was a whisker away from turning home Lauren Hemp’s fizzing delivery, before Bronze collected the rebound and fed Mead. The Arsenal forward spun and finished magnificently to net her sixth of the tournament.
Mead and Bronze combined once more as England doubled their advantage three minutes after the break, this time the latter providing for the former. Bronze ghosted to the back post completely unmarked and headed home Mead’s corner, leaving Peter Gerhardsson’s half time team talk in tatters.
Sweden were not to go down without a fight and rallied after making a double substitution. Amanda Ilestedt failed to connect cleanly with a back post delivery, while Blackstenius glanced a header narrowly wide. At the other end, Hemp could have put the game beyond doubt, but could only crack the crossbar after a bursting run and delivery from Alessia Russo.
Earps denied Blackstenius for a third time just after the hour mark, stretching superbly to tip the Sweden striker’s header over the bar.
It would prove to be a critical save. Moments later England went up the other end and added a third – in the most outrageous fashion. Russo was denied at point blank range by Hedvig Lindahl, before collecting the rebound and audaciously back heeling the ball past the unsuspecting Sweden goalkeeper.
Kirby added a fourth for England with 14 minutes remaining, lobbing Lindahl from outside the box as the Lionesses booked their Euro 2022 final spot in style.
GK: Mary Earps – 8/10 – Produced two big saves inside the opening eight minutes to keep out Blackstenius with her feet and fingertips. Denied the Arsenal forward again in the second half with a fabulous, stretching save.
RB: Lucy Bronze – 7/10 – Looked a little fragile defensively in the opening exchanges as Sweden got in behind down the England right, but grew into the game and picked out Mead for England’s opener, before heading home her side’s second.
CB: Millie Bright – 7/10 – Won anything and everything in the air, really pivotal during the 10 minute spell in the second half where Sweden looked to halve the deficit.
CB: Leah Williamson – 7/10 – Exceptional distribution from the off, breaking the lines effortlessly with a couple of superb passes. Made a couple of important interceptions as Sweden came knocking in the second half.
LB: Rachel Daly – 7/10 – Produced a couple of smart turns early in the first half, drawing a raw of approval from the crowd. Calm and assured.
CM: Keira Walsh – 8/10 – Switched play effortlessly on numerous occasions. So calm and composed in possession.
CM: Georgia Stanway – 8/10 – Urged to shoot every time she received the ball within a 30 yard radius of goal. Energetic and dynamic, the Sweden midfield struggled to deal with her countless bursts forward.
CM: Fran Kirby – 8/10 – Drifted in between the lines and was able to get on the ball in the pockets on numerous occasions. On the scoresheet with a clever lob.
RW: Beth Mead – 8/10 – Netted England’s opener with a really well taken swivel and finish, before setting up the second with an inch perfect back post delivery to Bronze.
ST: Ellen White – 6/10 – A whisker away from getting on the scoresheet in the build up to England’s opener with a Gazza-esque stretch. Ran her heart out, limited in her opportunities in and around the six yard area. Replaced just before the hour.
LW: Lauren Hemp – 9/10 – Looked like she really fancied it from the off, getting at Ilestedt at every given opportunity. Instrumental in England’s opener with a fizzing ball across the face of goal. Really at her best and looked an absolute menace whenever she was on the ball.
SUB: Alessia Russo – 8/10 – Looked dangerous the second she stepped on the pitch. Added a third for England with an outrageous back heel.
SUB: Ella Toone – 6/10
SUB: Chloe Kelly – N/A
SUB: Jill Scott – N/A
SUB: Alex Greenwood – N/A
GK: Hedvig Lindahl – 5/10 – Couldn’t have done a great deal about England’s first three, but failed to keep out Kirby’s lob despite getting both hands to the ball.
RB: Amanda Ilestedt – 4/10 – Had a bit of a tough time of it up against the dynamic Hemp, who gave her the slip in the build up to England’s opener and second goal. Replaced after 54 minutes.
CB: Magdalena Eriksson – 5/10 – Struggled to deal with the movement and interchanges of the England front four.
CB: Linda Sembrant – 5/10 – Not offered a lot of protection from her fullbacks, but had a tough time of it up against England’s dynamic forward line.
LB: Hanna Glas – 4/10 – Lost track of marker Mead in the build up to England’s opener, allowing the Arsenal winger to get goal side of her. Made a vital interception to deny Mead early in the second half.
CM: Nathalie Bjorn – 5/10 – Struggled to contend with the fluidity and energy of the England midfield, and Kirby and Stanway broke through on multiple occasions.
CM: Filippa Angeldahl – 4/10 – Like her midfield partner Bjorn, had a difficult time containing England’s effervescent midfield trio. Replaced after 51 minutes.
CM: Kosovare Asllani – 6/10 – Looked Sweden’s most dangerous attacking threat, but faded after being starved of service.
RW: Sofia Jakobsson – 4/10 – Unable to trouble Daly, before being replaced after 51 minutes.
ST: Stina Blackstenius – 5/10 – Denied twice in the opening exchanges by Earps from close range, and kept out again by Earps in the second half
LW: Fridolina Rolfo – 5/10 – Had a bit of joy up against Bronze in the opening 10 minutes, but didn’t close the England right back down quickly enough in the build up to the opening goal.
SUB: Caroline Seger – 5/10
SUB: Johanna Rytting Kaneryd – 5/10
SUB: Jonna Andersson – 5/10
SUB: Hanna Bennison – 5/10
SUB: Lina Hurtig – 5/10