England Women capped a superb World Cup by beating Germany to finish third in this year’s tournament.
It was a magnificent response by the Lionesses who will quite right return home as heroes having displayed such resilience throughout the competition.
England started with four Manchester City Women in the starting line-up. Lucy Bronze, Jill Scott, Steph Houghton and Karen Bardsley getting the nod and Toni Duggan on the bench.
With the disappointment of the semi-final defeat to Japan still so fresh in the memory, this was always going to be a difficult challenge for Mark Hampson’s side.
England Women had never beaten Germany before and the size of the task in this encounter was underlined after just 40 seconds when Karen Bardsley was forced into a smart save down to her right, but the Lionesses soon settled down and Steph Houghton had a great chance to score on 12 minutes but scuffed Bronze’s cross.
Germany looked more threatening, but England’s resolve meant they went in level at the break and looking fairly comfortable,
Bardsley was soon called into action again when she brilliantly parried a Sara Daebritz volley around the post from close range to keep the scores level.
As the half progressed, so England became stronger and Scott was unlucky to see a chance crowded out by the German defence after yet more good work by Bronze.
In the dying stages it was Bronze who produced another great run and cross but when the ball found its way back to Houghton she again snatched at the opportunity.
Additional time was needed to separate the teams – quite a feat for an England side that had failed to beat Germany in 20 attempts and typical of the Lionesses’ World Cup campaign.
After an even first period of extra time, England finally broke through moments after the re-start when Lianne Sanderson was hauled down in the box and Fara Williams slotted home the spot-kick.
There were still nervy moments and Bardsley again saved well from a free-kick but Hampson’s side hung on for a famous win.