Klara Bühl struck late to crush England’s record home crowd of 77,768 and give Germany victory. Ellen White had scored in her first England game after injury sidelined the 30-year-old following her six-goal haul at the World Cup in France to undo Germany captain Alexandra Popp’s early unmarked header inside nine minutes.
White’s one-touch strike levelled things on the stroke of half time after Kiera Walsh floated a looping ball from deep onto the toes of Manchester City teammate but Bühl skipped into the box and slipped past Mary Earps in the 90th minute to dampen the mood of the damp fans.
When the team sheet arrived their was fairly universal agreement; it was good. Goalkeeper Earps, who struggled for playing time during her season with Wolfsburg but is now shining for Manchester United was preferred to Carly Telford and Ellie Roebuck, while Leah Williamson retained her place alongside Steph Houghton despite the return of Millie Bright. With Jordan Nobbs slotted back into a midfield hole that Phil Neville struggled to fill in France it was perhaps as close to the strongest starting XI England have had available for a long time.
Inside 10 minutes, though, we saw the best and worst of Earps. First, at full stretch, a graze of her fingertips forced Popp’s lashed effort from the left on to the bar, but arguably the keeper could have done more to keep out the German captain when she headed powerfully through Earps’ arms.
It would be unfair to point the finger at Earps too much, however. The nippy cross from Kathrin Hendrich to Popp caught both Williamson and Houghton napping. It was an all too familiar sight. England under Neville have conceded 24 goals and 10 have been directly from crosses into the box.
It is allegedly a problem Neville and the players are well aware of, and are working on intensively in training, but there have been few signs of a remedy. Houghton, Bright, Williamson and Abbie McManus play for the three most defensively solid teams in the league, but in England shirts they just cannot seem to click. While Lyon’s Lucy Bronze and Alex Greenwood seem unable stem the crosses from wide, at Wembley straying too central.
The early goal punctured the feel-good bubble of the record sell-out Lionesses crowd. With Germany dominant and pouncing on the all too frequent sloppy passes England’s defence once again looked on the ropes. Nikita Parris latched on to a Houghton long ball and forced a corner but it was Germany that would break, Williamson cutting out Sandra Starke’s bright run from deep.
It was Parris and Jill Scott combining on the right who provided England’s most threatening moments and, with the Germans forced across to deal with it, Beth Mead found more and more space on the left. Having been clattered by Sara Doorsoun’s high late foot, Mead recovered and won a penalty shortly after the half- hour mark as she raced on to White’s stretched through ball, getting there just ahead of keeper Merle Frohms. Up stepped Parris but her effort was central, lacked power and Frohms diving legs ricocheted the ball high and over to make it three missed penalties in four in an England shirt for the Lyon winger.
In an effort to amend for her poor spot kick Parris twice raced towards the box, first sending a curling effort which was cut out before it could reach White, then trying to get to a flicked on pass that Frohms just picked up ahead of her. With a minute left of the half Bronze touched the ball back to Kiera Walsh who lofted a stunning curling pass over the top of the defence and White slotted past Frohms with one touch. White slid towards the corner flag and was engulfed by teammates as the fairly dormant crowd until that point erupted. With England having played Germany 20 times in 35 years only recording one win and four draws in that time – a 3-0 drubbing in front of the previous Lionesses home record of 45,619 in their last Wembley outing in 2014 – the goal seemed to lift a weight off the shoulders of the players.
A sluggish start ended when Parris found White wide on the right but her ball across goal was not anticipated by Mead on the other flank. Having predictably controlled the middle of the park Lyon No 10 Dszenifer Marozsán looked to retake the lead for Germany with a fierce strike from 30 yards but it whipped narrowly over to rattle the railings in front of the crowd.
A wonderful header from Nobbs between centre-back pairing Hendrichs and Doorsoun to White almost put her through but she was crowded off the ball, crowing for a free-kick.
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