Arnold Clark Cup Day One: Draws for both Germany v Spain and England v Canada (17/2/22)
We look back on the first day of the inaugural Arnold Clark Cup, where fans were given a taste of the tough competition to expect over the next two match days. With four games remaining, teams are battling for more than just the bragging rights of being named the first-ever champions of the Arnold Clark Cup. England, Spain, and Germany have their sights set on the upcoming European Championships all the while Canada shifts their focus from the huge success of the Olympics to Concacaf Women’s Championships and the 2023 World Cup. Reports by Chloe Atkins.
GERMANY 1 – 1 SPAIN, 2.30pm ko, Middlesbrough FC
The first match of the opening day of the Arnold Clark Cup saw 3rd-ranked and eight times European Champions Germany get an 87th-minute equalizer to draw with 9th-ranked Spain at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium. The late goal from Lea Schuller saved a weakened Germany – without players unavailable due to injury and positive Covid tests – from suffering what would have been their first-ever defeat against the Spanish side.
The game started heavily favouring the stronger Spanish line-up and unsurprisingly they had the majority of possession throughout, though Germany perhaps created the better opportunities in the first half. Both teams were unable to capitalise on their chances but immediately after the restart Spain took advantage of a mistake by Lena Oberdorf which allowed Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas to open the scoring of the tournament with a little lobbed volley over the keeper’s head.
As the game progressed both sides drew big saves from their opposing goalkeepers. On 80 minutes, Germany’s no.1 Merle Frohms went down and required treatment, which allowed an opportunity for a team talk. According to German Head Coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg, the conversation went along the lines of, “let’s go and be brave.” Only seven minutes later, Maximiliane Rall went into a tackle against Spanish defender Laia Aleixandri Lopez that ended with the ball falling to the foot of Schuller whose clinical finish was buried into the bottom right-hand corner. The game finished 1-1 and it seemed a fair outcome for an entertaining encounter.
Regardless of the result Spain’s head coach Jorge Vilda believes, “today’s game made us stronger as a team.” With his influential midfielder Patricia Guijarro Gutierrez stating: “We could have done with another goal, but a draw makes a good start to the tournament.”
The Arnold Clark Cup opener served as a precursor for Euro 2022 where these two sides will meet again in Group B in July at Brentford. Will Spain be able to finally earn their first win against Europe’s most successful women’s football nation? Only time will tell.
Canada 1-1 England, 7.30pm ko, Middlesbrough FC
The highly anticipated second match at the Riverside Stadium between reigning Olympic Gold medalists Canada and the home side England also finished in a 1-1 draw but behind the seemingly straightforward scoreline was a hugely engaging encounter.
The crowd of 8,769 generated a great first-half atmosphere that matched the onfield energy, particularly from Sarina Wiegman’s charges. Only three minutes in and England had their first corner, despite it being cleared with ease England pushed on creating many more opportunities. England’s ever-lively Lauren Hemp and Canada’s Janine Beckie had some friendly competition as the Man City teammates battled it out on the left-wing.
Canada had their first and only opportunity of the first forty-five around the ten minute mark through a powerful header from the PSG defender Kadeisha Buchanan that was blocked by Chelsea’s Millie Bright, Buchanan herself would make several vital interceptions putting her body in-between the ball and the goal right until the final whistle in a fine display. The also impressive Bright was about to make her own even more important and eye-catching contribution to the game. An 20 minutes, Fran Kirby stood over a corner ball that she played short to Alex Greenwood who whipped in a cross that Canadian Keeper Kailen Sheridan punched away. Her clearance landed just in front of Bright who made perfect contact on the edge of the 18-yard box and as her right-footed volley hit the back of the net the Riverside erupted in cheers.
The second half started with similar energy to the first, though with Canada and Jessie Fleming growing in influence in the game. In the 54th minute, PSG’s Ashley Lawrence made an interception and drove at England’s backline. She played it to PSG teammate Jordyn Huitema who slickly and cleverly slipped the ball to Beckie. The City forward took a touch and from the edge of the area struck a stunning effort which sailed over Mary Earps’ head and into the back of the Lionesses’ net. Canada ties it up one all.
“I was disappointed with my first touch as I wanted it on my right foot, but when I saw a shooting lane I went for it,” explained goalscorer Beckie afterwards, adding: “I am proud of myself for scoring, it’s been a while since I scored for Canada.”
The home side went on to make five changes with Beth Mead, Ellen White, Lucy Bronze, Jess Carter, and Nikita Parris all bagging an appearance and they pressed for a winner but Canada stayed tight around the box and looked for a fast counter-attack until the final whistle.
In the post-match interviews, Canada’s coach Beverly Priestman commented on England’s fans stating that, “They are incredible, they were electric and love that England team.”
Whereas England Head Coach Sarina Wiegman was content with the performance and the challenge provided by their opponents: “This is a totally different game than the first six we had, we will get games like this in Euros. We need to learn from them… [there are] so many things to discuss and learn from tonight.”