England failed to live up to their billing as Euro 2017 favourites as they were beaten in the semi-final by a ruthless display from hosts Netherlands.
In their first four games the Lionesses looked resilient, spirited and full of goals but two of those qualities deserted them as the tournament hosts cut through England’s defence and blunted their attack.
After a semi-final defeat in the 2015 World Cup and an impressive win against world champions USA earlier this year they deserved to be credited among the favourites, and when six-time defending champions Germany lost in the quarter-finals they became the team to beat.
But the Netherlands rose their game and the Lionesses could not respond as goals from striker Vivianne Miedama and the outstanding Danielle van de Donk ensured England’s 51-year wait for a major international trophy goes on.
England's top scorer at the Euros, Jodie Taylor said: "It just wasn't our night. I don't think things went our way. They're a good team. It's disappointing but things didn't fall our way tonight.
"It wasn't meant to be. I think there were a couple that might have been penalties. A couple of calls didn't go out way tonight, but credit to Holland.
"I'm proud of every single one of us tonight. We gave it everything."
Mark Sampson’s side actually made an encouraging start and got a grip on proceedings, but the pace and verve of the Netherlands looked ominous from the get-go – and they proved that all the pre-match hype surrounding them was justified.
Shanice van de Sanden was particularly dangerous, and it was her deep cross which was nodded firmly across goal by Miedama and beyond keeper Siobhan Chamberlain to give the Netherlands a deserved lead mid-way through the first half.
England awoke from their stupor almost equalised instantly as Fran Kirby blazed over from close range before Jade Moore had a header deflected onto the bar – the closest they came all night.
They responded impressively as they took control of the match, but there was too much urgency in attack and too much hesitancy in defence.
However, they chould have been given a chance to level just before the break when Ellen White was elbowed in the back as she darted into the box – but referee Stephanie Frappart waved away England’s penalty claims, much to the anger of Sampson on the bench.
Still England had momentum but that disappeared when Van de Sanden fired towards the bottom corner minutes after the break and Chamberlain was forced to tip away at full stretch. The Dutch had upped the ante.
The Lionesses missed the athleticism of the suspended Jill Scott in midfielder and it was her replacement, veteran Fara Williams, who made a critical error as her header back towards Chamberlain was too short and Van de Donk nipped in to double the hosts’ lead and ultimately seal their fate.
England pressed forward in desperation but Taylor, the tournament’s top scorer with five goals, fluffed her lines when it mattered most as she shot straight at the goalkeeper from six yards out – a clear sign that it just wasn’t to be – before a Lieke Martens shot squeezed in late on to add a third for the hosts.
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