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BRIGHTON: England rallied from the brink of elimination to beat Spain 2-1 after extra time and reach the Euro 2022 semi-finals thanks to Georgia Stanway’s superb strike.
Ether Gonzalez’s opener pushed the hosts to an early exit but Ella Toone saved the Lionesses six minutes from the end of regulation time before Stanway’s winner took England into the last four of a fourth consecutive major tournament.
Sarina Wiegman’s team will face either Sweden or Belgium in the last four on Tuesday.
England received a pre-game boost with Wiegman returning to the touchline after testing negative for coronavirus earlier in the day.
The Lionesses did everything their way in the group stage as they scored 14 unanswered goals against Austria, Norway and Northern Ireland.
However, despite their own struggles to reach the round of 16, Spain took a big leap forward in their category.
La Roja had been pre-tournament favorites before injuries to defending Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas and all-time top scorer Jennifer Hermoso upset their preparations.
Jorge Vilda’s side suffered their first defeat since 2019 against Germany in the group stage, but even in this game they dominated possession.
Spain’s ability to keep the ball away from the hosts frustrated England and another crowd of 29,000 in Brighton for the vast majority of the opening 90 minutes.
But they still struggled to turn their possession into goals.
Despite being on the back foot, the home side could have led before the break as Ellen White smashed a stray ball from a free kick into the roof of the net to be ruled offside.
England have yet to lose in 18 games since Wiegman took charge in September.
But they have never been so close to defeat in this era and had to show an admirable fight to come back from goal to goal.
Spanish substitute Athenea Del Castillo passed Rachel Daly and squared for Gonzalez, who had time to take a touch before shooting low into the far corner.
Mary Earps then had to make a brilliant save to prevent a cross from the snitch Del Castillo floating into the far corner to double Spain’s lead.
Wiegman wasted no time turning to his bench with White, Fran Kirby and tournament top scorer Beth Mead surprisingly sacrificed for the introduction of Chloe Kelly, Alessia Russo and Toone.
These changes had the desired effect of keeping England’s hopes of a first major tournament win in women’s football alive.
Lauren Hemp’s cross was headed in by Russo for Manchester United team-mate Toone to fire from close range.
Suddenly the momentum swung completely in England’s favor and six minutes into extra time they were leading.
Stanway moved forward before the Bayern Munich midfielder kicked the ball past Sandra Panos from outside the box.
Aitana Bonmati came close to an answer when she shot wide at the start of the second overtime period.
But Spain’s wait to win a knockout tie at a major women’s tournament continues.