England Women fell to another defeat in the SheBelieves Cup as they were beaten 1-0 by Spain Women.
The Lionesses went into the game knowing only a big win would keep their hopes of retaining the cup alive but a late goal from Alexia Putellas was enough to hand England their second defeat from the three games.
But who were the biggest winners and losers?
Winner: Jorge Vilda
Spain were impressive in their first two games against Japan and the United States, only losing narrowly to the latter. There were, therefore, hopes of them giving England a test to see just how good Neville’s side were – and how good Spain are.
In the first half, most likely as a result of their much-changed side, Spain were poor. They looked a long way away from the team that went toe-to-toe with the United States and could barely string two passes together, allowing England far too many opportunities to turn the ball over high up the pitch.
Manager Jorge Vilda clearly saw this because, at half-time, he made a hat-trick of changes that completely changed the game. Immediately after the break, Spain were excellent and back to the promising side they had shown themselves to be earlier in the tournament.
Alexia Putellas was particularly brilliant after coming on at half-time and Vilda even had the privilege to be able to call upon Jennifer Hermoso from the bench as the game ticked on, sensing a chance of winning.
And it eventually led to the winner, with Hermoso sending in an excellent corner for Alexia Putellas to head home.
Loser: Phil Neville
When the starting line-ups were announced, neither side looked like they were going for the SheBelieves Cup. There was rotation and some of the more fringe players were handed starts with not much on the line, but eyes were still on the England squad and how they performed.
And, the truth is, it doesn’t shine too brightly on Phil Neville. In the first half England were good, and had their chances to take the lead against a Spain side that appeared to have forgot the basics of their game.
But when Spain made their changes at half-time, Neville failed to react. His substitutions came at the wrong times and looked more like pre-planned changes rather than switches to put the game back in his side’s favour.
And the manner in which the defeat came was a case of the same old story for England, conceding from a set-piece due to poor defensive set up. Something Neville hasn’t managed to make any positive impact on over the past eight months.
Under Neville, England have now lost seven of their last 11 games, surely leading to more questions over his credentials for the job.
Winner: Leah Williamson
What a player England have in Leah Williamson. Naturally a centre-back, Williamson has been playing in central midfield lately for Arsenal due to the Gunners’ injury problems, and was put into the same position by Phil Neville for England. But you wouldn’t know she’s not a midfielder.
In the first half particularly, Williamson was excellent, linking up well with Jill Scott and Jordan Nobbs to control the midfield in stages, giving their Spanish counterparts a tough evening.
Even as Spain took more control in the second half, Williamson continued to impress in the midfield role and may have nailed down a spot there for years to come. Although England could also do with her at the back.
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Loser: Ellen White
Handed a start after scoring the winner against Japan, Ellen White had an evening to forget on Wednesday.
Forever looking to play off the shoulder of the final defenders, White was unable to hold her line and got caught offside far too many times – constantly bringing an end to England’s positive play. And when she did manage to fight against the offside flag, White was off the pace and unable to get onto the end of her teammates passes, although they could have been better.
When White was replaced by Chloe Kelly with 20 minutes to go, England actually improved and looked the more likely to score of the two sides until Putellas’ winner.
Winner: Alexia Putellas
One of Vildas’ aforementioned half-time substitutions, Alexia Putellas completely changed the game after coming on and was well deserving of grabbing the winning goal.
From her introduction, Putellas ran the show for Spain from midfield, wrestling control away from Williamson who had done so well. With Putellas on the pitch, Spain had gone from a team struggling to find each other with their passes, to accomplished movers of the ball.
And late on, Putellas got the goal worthy of her display, finding space into the box from a corner and beating Carly Telford – who had looked like frustrating Spain – with a powerful header.
Loser: Bethany England
As England, the team, went into the tournament there were calls for Bethany England to be Phil Neville’s starting striker. The 25-year-old has been in excellent form for Chelsea in the Women’s Super League this season, scoring 14 goals as they push for the title. She missed out on the World Cup despite being in fine form last season too, but this year as been her year.
But she was only handed a cameo appearance in England’s first game against the United States and struggled to impress last time out against Japan, with Ellen White replacing her and eventually scoring the winner.
There were still hopes of England doing something against Japan but the forward wasn’t even among the substitutes when the starting XI was allowed. Initial confusion turned to sadness as England was seen in a protective boot walking into the stadium, alleviating fears to Chelsea fans.