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Saturday, February 24, 2024

Lionesses miss out on Olympic qualification chance –

England blew Scotland away with a powerful 6-0 victory but on a night of high drama fell short of making the Nations League knockout stages as Team GB’s hopes of reaching next summer’s Olympic Games were ended.

A conflict of interest was widely discussed before the game as a victory for the Lionesses – the nominated nation on behalf of Team GB in qualification for Paris next year – was the only way any Scottish players would be able to feature at the Games.

Pedro Martinez Losa’s side, already relegated from League A1 ahead of their final game, were simply outclassed by a visiting side but the Netherlands’ 4-0 win over Belgium saw them top the group.

Defender Alex Greenwood headed the opener after 12 minutes, two goals in a minute by Lauren James and another by Beth Mead just before the break had the game done by the interval.

Striker Fran Kirby added a fifth with Lucy Bronze heading in what looked a crucial final goal in the third minute of added time – but Damaris Egurrola’s late brace for the Netherlands meant they pipped Sarina Wiegman’s side on goal difference.

With only pride left to play for in front of 15,320 fans, Martinez Losa made four changes from the side that drew with Belgium on Friday with goalkeeper Lee Gibson, Emma Mukandi, Rachel McLauchlan and Kirsty Hanson coming into the side.

The visitors, who had stormed back to beat Netherlands 3-2 in their last outing, showed two changes with attacker Mead starting for the first time since sustaining an anterior cruciate ligament injury more than 12 months ago and Esme Morgan returning in defence.

The game quickly swung from end to end but the opening goal was poor from the Scots’ point of view. A Mead corner came over from the right and Greenwood jumped unopposed to lob a header over Mukandi at the far post with Gibson all too easily beaten as well.

England looked strong and confident and in the 27th minute Keira Walsh’s raking long ball was just missed by Mead at the edge of the Scotland box.

Three minutes later, James sped down the left on to a Greenwood pass and crossed for attacker Lauren Hemp but she struck the post from six yards.

England’s second came in the 38th minute when they were claiming a penalty for a handball in the box but James pounced on the loose ball and her strike from 20 yards took a big deflection off Docherty’s back and left Gibson stranded.

The Scots were still coming to terms with that blow when James brilliantly curled in England’s third from the edge of the box.

With Scottish heads spinning there was time for James to cross again to the back post for Mead to take a touch and fire past the helpless Gibson from 12 yards.

England’s thirst for goals continued after the break and within minutes Kirby tapped in a pass from Georgia Stanway, who overpowered Scotland captain Rachel Corsie on the byline.

Gibson did well to save a close-range drive from Hemp and a 25-yard free-kick from Greenwood and in between Kirby cracked the bar with a drive from 12 yards.

The classy visitors seemed to take a breather and in the 71st minute Hanson had a chance for the home side when she pounced on a short pass back and wriggled past England keeper Mary Earps but spun round and missed the target.

Scotland steadied themselves in the final stages and a last-minute header from substitute Martha Thomas came off the post but in the final moments Bronze sneaked in at the back post to head in a sixth – but Egurrola dramatically had the final say in Tilburg.

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