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Euro 2017

Euro Day 8: England’s shutout of Spain keeps all of Group D alive

Ellen White assisted Fran Kirby's game winner in the first half and nearly gave up a penalty in the second. (photo copyright Meg Linehan for The Equalizer)

Ellen White assisted Fran Kirby’s game winner in the first half and nearly gave up a penalty in the second. (photo copyright Meg Linehan for The Equalizer)

England rained on Spain’s hopes of advancing early, defeating the Spanish side, 2-0. Had the result gone in Spain’s favor, they would have won Group D and been the first team to advance to the quarterfinals, eliminating Scotland in the process. However, the result keeps all four teams in the group alive, even after Scotland’s 2-1 loss to Portugal earlier in the day.

That fact is the only real piece of luck going Scotland’s way on a day when almost everything seemed to go against them. The Scots injury woes continued as they were without Jane Ross, their leading scorer during qualifiers, after she suffered a shoulder injury in Scotland’s EURO opener against England, leaving them even weaker in the attack. They were still able to create chances, but a lack of finishing and careless mistakes cost them their best chance for three points.

Scotland had a chance on goal when Caroline Weir put a shot on target, but it was parried away by Portugal keeper Patricia Morais. The deflection went right to Lana Clelland, in position to score on the rebound, but she failed to settle the ball and had to run back to collect. With her back to goal, she spun around and fired off of a shot, but the quick shot deflected off the near post to deny Scotland their best opportunity of the first half.

A blunder cost them a goal, and another mistake 10 minutes later cost them one on the other end of the field. Diana Silva sent in a cross intended for Carolina Mendes, but it was deflected and Scottish center back Vaila Barsley got to it first. Barsley took a bad touch though, which allowed the ball to roll free in front of goal, a mistake that Mendes capitalized on by volleying the ball past netminder Gemma Fay to score Portugal’s first goal of the tournament.

Scotland finally scored their own first EURO goal in the 68th minute after a give-and-go sequence in which Weir perfectly set up second-half sub Erin Cuthbert to score the equalizer. However, the Scottish joy over Cuthbert’s goal was over almost as soon as it began as Portugal were quick to score their second goal of the day. In the 72nd minute, Morais’ sent in a goal kick that was headed into the Portuguese attacking third where Ana Leite raced onto it, outpacing Barsley to get a look on goal. Despite Fay’s effort to cut off Leite’s angle, the Portuguese forward slotted the ball past her to put Portugal up, 2-0. In total, the game-winning play lasted 10 seconds and consisted of only five touches by three different players.

In the second game of the day, England only had two shots on goal all evening, but that’s all it took as a goal in the 2nd minute and another in the 85th bookended a solid defensive performance by the Lionesses. Spain out-possessed England three to one but were unable to use that possession to create more than one opportunity on goal. Spain’s high possession rate didn’t seem to phase the Lionesses, who seemed perfectly content to let their midfield and backline ward off Spain’s attacking efforts while waiting on the opportunity to strike.

Strike they did in just the second minute when Ellen White played the ball to Fran Kirby, who moved into space inside the 18 before sending her shot past Spanish goalkeeper Sandra Paños to give England a very early lead. Moments later it appeared that Millie Bright had doubled that lead when she headed in a free kick sent in by Jordan Nobbs, but the offside flag was up, negating Bright’s attempt. However, England would get their second goal with just five minutes to spare when Jodie Taylor beat Paños to a ball in the box and calmly put it past the keeper to score her fourth goal of the tournament.

Although the offside call was controversial to many, the most controversial moment of the day came in the 74th minute when the referee blew her whistle and pointed to the penalty spot after Ellen White was called for handling the ball inside the box. However, the referee soon changed the call, ruling that the contact, which occurred while White slipped on the wet pitch while attempting to clear the ball, was incidental. With the change of mind, Spain was denied its best attempt at a goal all match.

With all four teams still mathematically capable of advancing, it all comes down to the final day of group play. The odds are not in Scotland’s favor as they will have another tough test in Spain, while England will close out the group stage round against Portugal. Both games will be start at 2:45 p.m. ET on Thursday, July 27 and will be streamed live on ESPN3.

Group D Standings

W L D GF GA PTS
England 2 0 0 8 0 3
Spain 1 1 0 2 2 3
Portugal 1 1 0 2 3 3
Scotland 0 2 0 1 8 0
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