England captain Leah Williamson hails Lionesses’ mentality in Spain comeback: ‘We weren’t going home’

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England captain Leah Williamson hails Lionesses’ mentality in Spain comeback: ‘We weren’t going home’
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England captain Leah Williamson says the Lionesses have proved they can compete with the best and believes last night’s dramatic comeback win over Spain will do more for confidence than their procession through their group.

Sarina Wiegman’s side set up a European Championship semi-final against Sweden or Belgium next Tuesday after substitute Ella Toone’s 84th-minute equaliser and Georgia Stanway’s brilliant extra-time winner sealed a 2-1 win at the Amex.

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Spain were among the pre-tournament favourites and on course to teach England a harsh lesson in knockout football — and inflict a first defeat on coach Wiegman’s side — after Esther Gonzalez deservedly steered them ahead.

Hosts England won their three group games by an aggregate score of 14-0, including a record-breaking 8-0 win over Norway, but Williamson says last night’s hard-fought victory is more significant.

“It’s what we came here to do: we didn’t pack up, we left all our stuff [at base camp], we weren’t going home and you just saw the fight,” said the Arsenal defender.

“A convincing win is good, but a comeback [win] like that does a lot for your confidence and the emotion we finished that game with was unbelievable. That’s the difference. You go from group stage to a knockout game and I never felt like we were going to lose, it was just a matter of time.

 (PA)
(PA)

“It’s important to have a test and you expose yourself to that, and you can prove to yourself that you can come through the other side — that’s what is important about what we just did. Regardless of the opposition, that’s the first test we have had in the tournament and it was important we played with our hearts.

“We have immense respect for Spain, for what they do. They are the best at it in terms of the way they move the ball, but we knew our strengths, we knew how vulnerable they could be. Overall, I could probably count on my hand the times we were really run about.

Millions tune into extra-time comeback

A peak television audience of 7.6 million tuned into BBC One last night to see England progress through to the semi-finals after Georgia Stanway’s stunning strike claimed victory over Spain in extra-time. There were also 1.5 million streams across BBC iPlayer and the BBC Sport website and app for the game.

“I think [our comeback] is the shift from group-game mentality to knockouts. That’s why I’m proud of everybody, because you want to win convincingly, but what we’ve just done has proved we’re resilient and can overcome tests. I’m so proud of them.

“We’re serious. We back ourselves. We don’t get caught up in it. We don’t look ahead of the next game, but when it comes to looking each other in the eye and believing in each other, we have that. Last night, that showed, because at no point did I think we were going home.”

 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

For long periods, a technically superior and savvier Spain side looked likely to inflict a familiar defeat on an English national team in a major tournament as they dominated possession and restricted Wiegman’s side to half-chances.

But England’s late pressure told when Toone volleyed home a knock-down from fellow substitute Alessia Russo before Stanway’s brilliant long-range strike in the 96th minute.

Stanway said: “We felt we were in the game and we rattled them, we were causing them problems. We were putting crosses in the box, having shots, we were breaking them down. It was just a matter of time.

 (PA)
(PA)

“Before the game, a lot of the girls said to me that I need to shoot more. Coming into this tournament, I’d not had masses of efforts on goal. I don’t know why I shot. I don’t know what came over me.

“Usually I would probably pass that ball to the winger and expect the ball to be put back in the box, but I just thought, ‘What is the worst that can happen?’.”

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