Manchester City star Chloe Kelly scored an extra-time winner for England as the Lionesses beat Germany 2-1 to claim the Euros title. Keira Walsh also played her part in the national team’s triumph, setting up Ella Toone for the opener as the England girls claimed their first major trophy.
England manager Sarina Weigman had opted, as she had done all through the tournament, to start with the same 11 that faced beat Austria, Norway, Northern Ireland, Spain and Sweden to reach the final, with City stars Walsh, Lauren Hemp and Ellen White all starting, alongside former blues Lucy Bronze and Georgia Stanway.
After a goalless first half, during which England were the better team, Germany turned the pressure up, but the introduction of Toone changed the match. Six minutes later, Walsh played a glorious ball over the German defence which found Toone’s in acres of space. Onside and with only the keeper to beat, Toone kept her nerve and lifted the ball over the onrushing keeper to put the Lionesses in front.
Lina Magull levelled in the 79th minute to send the match to extra time, and the second period was just five minutes old when Kelly struck. A corner on the England right was headed back across goal by Bronze. Germany didn’t deal with it and Kelly turned in the box, mis-hit her first shot but made no mistake with her second attempt, poking the ball home to send the home crowd into dreamland. The City striker waited until the goal had been confirmed celebrating wildly
England held on for the remaining ten minutes to be crowned European champions for the first time.
From ACL Injury to Goal-scoring Hero
It marked the end of a difficult 12 months for Kelly. Just over a year ago, the City star ruptured her ACL in a home match against Birmingham City and spent almost all of last season on the sidelines.
She returned in April and scored one goal and five assists as the blues qualified for next season’s Champions League, which was enough for Weigman to select her for the England squad.
Although all of Kelly’s appearances at the tournament have been from the bench, the striker’s inclusion proved pivotal. Coming on in the 64th minute against Germany, she gave the opposition something to think about. Her direct running at the German defence caused problems for the six-time winners, and Kelly showed her goal-scoring prowess, with the match heading for penalties.
Turning the defender, her first attempt barely made contact with the ball. But Kelly had the presence of mind to stick out her leg again and make enough contact to poke the ball beyond the keeper and into the back of the goal.
Waiting until the goal had been confirmed, the City star was then booked for removing her shirt in celebration, not that she will have cared. It was her first international goal and what a time to score it.
On Europe’s biggest stage.
Spare a Thought For Houghton
Arsenal’s Leah Williamson lifted the trophy, but it should have been Steph Houghton out there, and it is heartbreaking to think that injury to the City skipper denied her the opportunity to lift the Lionesses first major trophy.
Houghton has been a key feature for the England set-up for so long, that she was almost part of the furniture. In the 2019 World Cup semi-final against the USA, the skipper showed tremendous courage and took responsibility for taking a late penalty which would have levelled the score at 2-2, but saw her spot-kick saved as England went out.
Injury in the first half of last season kept her out until the New Year, before being struck with injury again which kept her out for the rest of the season. Despite being named in the provisional squad, Houghton’s fitness was a concern which led to manager Weigman taking the difficult yet necessary decision to leave the former captain out of the squad.
Ever the professional, Houghton took the news well, and when England were crowned champions on Sunday night, the City skipper was one of the first to tweet about the stunning victory, congratulating the girls.
Her absence was felt in the team. Ellen White at one point cast a forlorn figure, no doubt wishing her team-mate and former skipper was there to celebrate with them.
Houghton may yet get another chance to star for the national side, with the Women’s World Cup just 12 months away. Hopefully, she’ll be able to finally get her hands on a major international trophy her amazing career and service deserves.