No one will forget tonight in a hurry.
For so long here at Wembley, it looked as though England’s porous defence had denied Team GB a place at next summer’s Olympics. Trailing 2-0 to the Netherlands at half-time in a must-win match, the Lionesses hit twice in as many minutes to level before substitute Ella Toone slotted home in stoppage time to clinch three crucial points.
And with Belgium drawing with Scotland, England could now win this Nations League group should on Tuesday they beat the Auld Enemy and hope Netherlands fail to win. If that helps, Team GB are heading to Paris.
Netherlands had already beaten England in Utrecht back in September — one of two defeats the Lionesses have endured on their rocky maiden Nations League campaign. Back for more, the Dutch took the lead against the run of play with a goal that exposed yet more lax defending which has plagued England since the World Cup.
Victoria Pelova’s pass in behind was inch-perfect for Lineth Beerensteyn, who benefited from Lucy Bronze bumping her centre-back partner Jess Carter off course. Into the space which opened up went Beerensteyn, and she finished smartly.
Danielle van de Donk and Jill Roord nearly doubled the Dutch advantage, before Beerensteyn eventually did. A succession of second balls were won by the visitors, and that made it possible for Beerensteyn to pick up the pieces, tie Alex Greenwood in knots, and then fire into the corner with a rare Mary Earps error seeing the ball trickle over the line.
“Oh my god”, cried Earps, and most inside Wembley were having the same thought.
England looked out of ideas and out of luck. They had produced so little in terms of cohesive attacking patterns of play, and the Dutch had caught them napping at the back.
But as Beth Mead was introduced from the bench at the interval for her first appearance since November last year, Sarina Wiegman knew her side would need just one goal to spark them into life and to reinvigorate a dormant and unimpressed Wembley crowd.
The hosts got that chance and took it when Lauren James cut back onto her right foot and crossed for Georgia Stanway to nod into the bottom corner and give England hope just before the hour mark.
They would not be waiting long for another. Within two minutes, England had netted again as Hemp’s shot sneaked into the bottom corner with Daphne van Domselaar helpless. A reminder — perhaps the first since the World Cup — that England still possess world-class firepower at a moment’s notice.
Having started without a nominal striker, Wiegman now had Alessia Russo on the field and soon, too, introduced Rachel Daly for a thrilling finale.
James curled a beautiful cross into the box in stoppage time and Toone, another sub, never gave up to arrive late and volley in at the back post. Wembley erupted and England had earned one of their finest, and most crucial, wins in Wiegman’s outstanding tenure.