The Netherlands beat England 3-0 to reach the Women’s Euro 2017 final in front of a Dutch record crowd of 27,093, writes Marissa Thomas.
The hosts named an unchanged side from their quarter-final against Sweden. England made two enforced changes as Siobhan Chamberlain replaced the injured Karen Bardsley and Fara Williams made her 165th appearance in place of the suspended Jill Scott.
There was a sellout crowd for the match in Enschede as the hosts faced the favourites in FC Twente’s home ground. Both sides came into the semi-final boasting a 100% win record.
England had a slightly nervy start to the game, with a few rushed and uncertain clearances at the back. The Netherlands were encouraged by the sea of orange as their home crowd, the biggest attendance for a European championship semi-final, cheered them on.
Neither side created any chances until the 20th minute when Arsenal’s Danielle van de Donk controlled the ball with her chest on the edge of England’s penalty area. Her half-volley sailed over the bar.
Just two minutes later, the Netherlands had their reward. Arsenal’s new signing Vivianne Miedema showed her new team-mates what she’s all about by getting on the end of Jackie Groenen’s cross to head home and give the Netherlands a deserved lead. For the first time in the tournament, England were behind.
The Lionesses could have equalised almost immediately as PFA Players’ Player of the Year Lucy Bronze cut the ball back for Fran Kirby whose shot from the edge of the box was high and off target.
Jade Moore’s header from an England corner was deflected on to the post by Sherida Spitse, who was standing on the line for the Netherlands. It seemed England’s best chance for an equaliser would come through a set piece.
van de Donk was pulling the strings in midfield for the Dutch with England unable to get close to or contain her. Mark Sampson’s side had a massive penalty appeal just before half-time as Desiree van Lunteren gave Ellen White an elbow in the back but the referee waved away the protests. Sampson was so furious that he turned into the Incredible Hulk and ended up ripping his tight white shirt.
England were determined to find the equaliser in the second half and Mark Sampson decided not to make any changes during the break. Van de Donk was once again at the centre of things for the hosts but it was Shanice van de Sanden who nearly made it 2-0. Her Liverpool team-mate Chamberlain was alert to the danger and palmed away her effort.
Just when it looked like England were really pushing for the equaliser, they gifted the Netherlands their second goal. Fara Williams nodded the ball back to her own goal but her Arsenal team-mate van de Donk (who else) intercepted the pass before Chamberlain could get there to double her sides’ advantage. It was risky from Williams and van de Donk ruthlessly punished her error.
After going 2-0 down, England looked deflated and frustrated. The chances they created were few and far between and did not trouble the Netherlands.
With the last kick of the game, Lieke Martens’ effort at the near post went in off Millie Bright and was put down as an own goal to make it 3-0. So harsh on Bright who has been one of England’s best players throughout the tournament and the only one to start all five games.
It just wasn’t meant to be for England who were second best on the night. They were unlucky at times but overall, the Netherlands deserved their victory and gave it their all to progress to the final where they will face Denmark.
When these sides met in the 2009 Women’s Euro final, England were victorious. This time it was the Netherlands who progressed to the final for the first time. They become just the second hosts to reach the finals since they were expanded to an eight-team tournament with a group stage in 1997.
Netherlands Starting XI: van Veenendaal, van Lunteren, Dekker, van der Gragt (Zeeman 70), van Es, Groenen, van de Donk (Roord 90+2), Spitse, van de Sanden (Jansen 89), Miedema, Martens
Unused substitutes: van den Berg, Folkertsma, Christ, Lewerissa, van den Bulk, Janssen, Beerensteyb, van der Most, Geurts
England Starting XI: Chamberlain, Bronze, Houghton, Bright, Stokes, Moore (Carney 76), Williams (Duggan 67), Nobbs, Kirby, White, Taylor
Unused substitutes: Potter, Christiansen, Stoney, Bassett, Parris, Greenwood, Telford, Scott
Player of the Match: Danielle van de Donk