Late goals from Millie Bright and Fran Kirby saw England Women beat Germany Women 3-1 at Molineux to win the Arnold Clark Cup.
The Lionesses headed into their final game of the tournament knowing that a two-goal victory would see them edge Spain for the title, although that was easier said than done against opponents they had never beaten at home before.
However, Sarina Wiegman’s side would never have a better opportunity against a weakened Germany team hit by Covid, and it showed in the opening quarter of the clash dominated by the hosts.
England Women: Roebuck (7), Bronze (8), Bright (8), Carter (7), Greenwood (7), Stanway (7), Williamson (8), Walsh (7), Kirby (7), White (8), Hemp (9)
Subs: Toone (6), Daly (6), Parris (7), Russo (6)
Germany: Frohms (6), Kleinherne (6), Rall (8), Schuller (6), Feldkamp (6), Dabritz (7), Gwinn (6), Anyomi (6), Buhl (6), Magull (8), Dongus (6)
Subs: Hagel (6), Brand (6), Dallmann (6), Cerci (6)
Player of the match: Lauren Hemp
The Lionesses made a deserved 15th-minute breakthrough thanks to Ellen White’s well-taken effort after good approach play by Georgia Stanway and Kirby – the striker’s 49th goal for her country seeing her draw level with Sir Bobby Charlton in the England goalscoring charts.
However, the two sides went in level at the break after Germany midfielder Lina Magull equalised with a wonderful 41st-minute free-kick as the much-changed visitors gradually grew into the contest.
The second period was scrappier as both managers made changes, perhaps with this summer’s European championship in mind and it was when England went to three at the back late on that they re-took the lead.
The Lionesses’ second goal may have owed some fortune to the absence of a Video Assistant Referee, who would have certainly ruled Bright’s 84th-minute strike out for offside had one been in operation.
England boss Sarina Wiegman made six changes for the Arnold Clark Cup match against Germany at Molineux. The adjustments from Sunday’s 0-0 draw with Spain included Leah Williamson returning to the starting XI and assuming the captain’s armband.
Fran Kirby, Lauren Hemp, Keira Walsh, Millie Bright and goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck were the others coming in, with Nikita Parris, Beth Mead, Rachel Daly, Jordan Nobbs, Jill Scott and Hannah Hampton dropping to the bench.
As for the visitors, both skipper Lina Magull and midfielder Giuila Gwinn started, but Jule Brand missed out.
However, the centre back – playing as a makeshift forward – was not to know she was in an offside position when the ball fell kindly at her feet eight yards out after another eye-catching dribble by Lauren Hemp, before finishing like a striker.
That controversy mattered little, though, when Kirby sealed the win in the fourth and final minute of injury time after a sensational solo run that began on halfway and ended with a calm dinked finish as the Lionesses finally got one over Germany for the first time at home to win the Arnold Clark Cup on goals scored from Spain.
Player of the Match – Lauren Hemp
The Man City forward delivered an eye-catching display operating down England’s left flank at Molineux, proving a constant thorn in the German defence, particularly in the second half with the home side dominating as they went in search of the winner to hand them the tournament victory.
And all England’s good work came down Hemp’s wing as the 21-year-old constantly dribbled at, and got by, Germany’s right back with ease, with the only thing missing being her final ball.
However, Hemp did play an integral part in the late move that led up to her side’s crucial second goal and has surely now sealed her place in the Lionesses’ starting lineup for the opening game at this summer’s European championship on home soil.
‘A huge boost for England’s home Euros’
Sue Smith on Sky Sports News:
“It’s a huge lift for England and Sarina Wiegman. You’ve got to praise the manager because at 1-1 she gambled with the formation and subs. It worked.
“You can see the belief and confidence in this side. They’ve gone out, knew they had to win it, and they’ve attacked it.
“England have played against three top-quality sides with different strengths, and have won the tournament.
“A huge boost for their home Euros.”
England’s Arnold Clark Cup victory: What we learned
Analysis by Sky Sports News reporter Anton Toloui:
England wanted top-class opposition ahead of this summer’s European championships and got just that by winning the Arnold Clark Cup.
But what will Sarina Wiegman take from the games against Canada, Spain and Germany?
‘We’ve grown so much and so fast’
England manager Sarina Wiegman on ITV 4:
“The whole tournament was as expected – it was three top level games and three very different opponents.
“We saw many things from the team, we saw different players and different starting line-ups. We have also seen different styles from us.
“I’ve seen much progression, when I came in this team had so much experience already and some young players coming in.
“But the eagerness, the commitment and the willingness to learn is so immense. It’s so nice to work with because we have grown so much and so fast. It has been a pleasure so far.”
‘We have taken our game to another level’
England defender Millie Bright on ITV 4:
“It’s massive, it keeps our momentum (going). Ultimately coming into this tournament it was about developing and about people getting minutes and exposure against top teams. We have done that well.
“We have taken our game to another level and shown that we can win.”
‘Today we learned how to win’
England captain Leah Williamson on ITV 4:
“I’m really proud. You come into a tournament and want to win it, and we did it.
“Even as soon as we won it, Sarina highlighted that it probably wasn’t our best game on the ball. It was very sloppy. It has maybe been a theme, so going forward that is something to work on.
“To fight ugly against a German side is not easy and I thought it was really good in the end.
“Today we learned how to win. Even when things aren’t going your way, or you need a bit of quality, our players delivered that and that is good for people to take away. They know they have that in their locker.
“In all three games I don’t think you could say we were outplayed and that is important for our confidence.”
England Women will begin their next round of World Cup qualification matches in April as they face North Macedonia Women on Friday, April 8.