Women's Euro 2017: 5 talking points around England 2-0 Spain

The Lionesses made it two wins from two Group D games with a gritty display in Breda

England are on the brink of ridding the demons of their group stage exit at Euro 2013 after a 2-0 win over Spain, thanks to goals from Fran Kirby and Jodie Taylor. The win means England now only require a point against Portugal on Thursday to top their group. 

England had to play large parts of the game without the ball and Spain will be disappointed to have created so little, despite having dominated possession for long stretches.

But Mark Sampson's side, who won with ease against Scotland four days ago, showed another side to their game tonight, grinding out a result at a soggy Rat Verlegh Stadion in Breda. 

Here are the main talking points from England's win. 

1. Sampson's faith

Sampson's decision not to meddle paid off

During his spell as England manager, which now spans three and a half years, Mark Sampson has become renowned for tinkering with his team – thanks largely to the huge pool of players he has to select from, and to ensure no player gets too comfortable. 

Naming an unchanged side after a 6-0 win might not be seen as a particularly bold move, but it was a statement by Sampson as it was the first time he had named the same XI in 55 games in charge. 

The message is clear: if any player wants to break into this team, they are going to have to impress off the bench, or simply be patient. 

With two wins under their belt and only a point needed in their final game to guarantee qualification, the unchanged line-up could well be a one off, especially with the game against Portugal being their third in eight days. But the balance of the side is exactly why England are one of the favourites to win Euro 2017, so don't expect too much tinkering. 

2. Early goal played into England's hands

Fran Kirby celebrates her goal

It took England nine minutes to score their first against Scotland, and tonight against Spain, it took under two. Importantly, Mark Sampson will have known that his side will have had to play a lot of the game without the ball, with Spain adopting the 'tiki-taka' style we are so familiar with from the men's side. 

The early goal ensured that the Lionesses could afford to have long periods without the ball, because with a lead to defend and a solid back four, it was always going to be tough for Spain to break them down. 

England need to be careful later on in the tournament though, should they qualify, because teams like Germany, who also like to keep the ball, will be more of a threat in attacking areas. Spain rarely troubled England in the 18-yard box, and striker Jennifer Hermoso was given little to no service. But as long as England are continuing to score early, they will be incredibly difficult to break down. 

 

3. Millie Bright is becoming irreplaceable

Bright was physically imposing against Spain

Chelsea's 23-year-old was named alongside captain Steph Houghton in defence once again in Mark Sampson's unchanged side, and she again showed why she is held in such high regard. 

Sampson has been big on increasing the athleticism and strength of his England side, and Bright fits the mould with a presence that matches up with the most physical of forwards.  

Bright marshalled the Spain forward line well alongside Houghton, and with the likes of the experienced pair Casey Stoney (currently injured) and Laura Bassett, there's plenty of competition for her place in that back four. 

Bright has played as a striker in her career and that almost works to her advantage, being able to read the movements of the opposition and position herself in the right areas. She's also a threat from set pieces, which was evident when she wrongly had a goal ruled out for offside after five minutes. 

 
4. The dark arts

Vicky Losada's play was anything but dark

Mark Sampson warned his players of the 'dark arts' of the Spanish team, suggesting in the build up to the match that Spain's players would perhaps go down too easily, and be in the referee's ear. 

The move was unquestionably an opportunity to try and gain a psychological advantage over his team's opponents, and to get into the head of the referee. But what we saw from Spain was anything but dark. Their five in midfield were a joy to watch and the interchange in positions ensured they had a lot of ball throughout the match. 

Former Arsenal Ladies player, Vicky Losada (now of Barcelona), covered almost every blade of grass as she looked to link the play between defence and attack. The pouring rain meant for a skiddy surface, which Spain used to their advantage, zipping the ball all over the park. The one issue - and it has been a common theme for teams who have dominated possession in this tournament - is that they didn’t create enough. 

5. The penalty that was, then wasn't

Referee Carina Vitulano was at the centre of a late controversy

One of the most astonishing decisions we've seen at an international women's tournament took place when referee Carina Vitulano awarded a penalty to Spain with 15 minutes remaining, only to then change her mind and reverse the decision. 

The call came after forward Ellen White slipped at a crucial moment, with the ball bouncing off her knee onto her arm. 

A penalty was given, but after some confusion and pleading from England players, it was revoked and the Lionesses were given a major let-off.

You could see why the penalty was given, but the argument will be that the handball was accidental, which is ultimately why the referee made the final call.

 

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