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England fall to late defeat

Belgium 3 (De Neve 9, Wullaert 45,pen 85)

England 2 (Bronze 38, Kirby 44)

England’s hopes of finishing on top of their UEFA Women’s Nations League group suffered a blow as a late penalty condemned them to defeat in Leuven.

With the teams having met a few days earlier and England winning 1-0 on that occasion, they started on the front foot before a counter attack saw Chloe Kelly penalised for handball on the edge of the area and Laura De Neve stepped to curl a delightful shot past Mary Earps and into the corner of the net.

What had been a bad start was made even worse ten minutes later as they lost Alex Greenwood following a sickening clash of heads with Jassina Blom. The Belgian striker was able to continue after the accidental collision but Greenwood was stretchered off after a twelve minute delay and Jess Carter was brought on as a substitute.

Six minutes after play restarted, England were back on level terms. Kelly drove a deep corner into the area and beyond the far post, where Lucy Bronze planted a header into the far corner, via the underside of the bar.

Alessia Russo shot wide from the rebound after a Bronze header had been saved, but the game was turned on its head a further six minutes later, as Lauren Hemp drove into the area and set up Fran Kirby to slot home past Nicky Evrard and put England ahead for the first time.

Half time was a long way away though, due to the extended period of injury time, and Belgium were to strike again halfway through. A long ball forward by Janice Cayman was latched onto by Tessa Wullaert who outpaced the England defence before tucking her shot past Earps for the equaliser.

England pressed hard after the break with Russo and Kirby having shots saved but Belgium continued to be dangerous on the break, in particular Wullaert who was denied by a fine save from Earps.

Russo shot wide after being released by Kelly’s pass whilst Rachel Daly was narrowly off target from a Hemp cross, and the striker forced a save from Evrard with a header from a Keira Walsh cross as England continued to push for the third goal.

Belgium continued to stand firm though and with five minutes left, were given a great opportunity to go in front themselves. Yana Daniels drove a shot into the area which struck the arm of Georgia Stanway and a penalty was awarded. Wullaert stepped up to take the kick and, although Earps went the right way, the shot was too accurate and found the corner of the net.

Daly headed wide from a Niamh Charles cross and Walsh fired a shot over the bar but England could not find a way through and Belgium celebrated their victory after the final whistle.  

Nothing less than two wins will do now if England are to make it through to the semi finals although two victories would guarantee that Belgium will finish on top of the group. England next play the group leaders, the Netherlands, at Wembley on 1 December, before finishing up against Scotland at Hampden Park four days later.

England: Mary Earps, Lucy Bronze, Niamh Charles, Keira Walsh, Alex Greenwood (sub Jess Carter 31mins), Millie Bright, Chloe Kelly, Georgia Stanway, Alessia Russo (sub Rachel Daly 68mins), Fran Kirby (sub Ella Toone 68mins), Lauren Hemp. Subs not used: Esme Morgan, Hannah Hampton, Katie Zelem, Lotte Wubben-Moy, Grace Clinton, Maya Le Tissier, Ellie Roebuck, Jessica Park, Khiara Keating.  

Belgium: Nicky Evrard, Tine De Caigny, Tessa Wullaert (sub Jill Janssens 89mins), Justine Vanhaevermaet, Janice Cayman, Jassina Blom (sub Feli Delacauw 74mins), Laura De Neve (sub Sarah Wijnants 40mins), Sari Kees, Marie Detruyer (sub Yana Daniels 74mins), Laura Deloose, Kassandra Missipo. Subs not used: Davina Philtjens, Shari Van Belle, Constance Brackman, Isabelle Iliano, Diede Lemey, Jody Vangheluwe, Welma Fon,  Lisa Lichtfus.

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