The Lionesses won their final home game before UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 in style, putting five past a stunned Netherlands side who looked like anything but reigning champions.
The start of the game was lively and the home side showed promise, with a strong Fran Kirby cross just shy of two minutes in finding the head of Lauren Hemp, but the Manchester City star’s effort went wide.
As both sides grew into the game, it was the Lionesses who came close again thanks to Bethany England, who just missed the ball after a Kirby free-kick was headed towards her by Rachel Daly.
The Dutch then had some chances of their own, with Lineth Beerensteyn coming close on 19 minutes, forcing a fine save from Mary Earps. More momentum followed and they were able to capitalise, taking the lead on 22 minutes courtesy of a headed Lieke Martens effort that resulted from a Sherida Spitse corner, with the effort giving Earps no chance in the England goal.
The hosts recovered well and got their reward on 32 minutes thanks to Barcelona’s Lucy Bronze, who latched onto a Kirby pass and made her way into the box, with what seemed to be a cross floating over Van Veenendaal and into the net, bringing the Lionesses level.
The rest of the half lacked clear-cut chances and with the scores level, this set up a second half with everything to play for.
The drama started immediately after the break, with the away side being awarded a penalty by VAR following an Alex Greenwood challenge on Danielle Van de Donk, but Spitse’s effort would hit the post, sparing the Lionesses a further setback.
This allowed England to counter, with the result being a well-deserved lead courtesy of substitute Beth Mead on 52 minutes, who slid home a low cross from Hemp to send Elland Road into pandemonium.
The Lionesses never looked back from there, leaving the Dutch exhausted with an onslaught of persistent attacks and strong defence, with their reward being a third goal on 72 minutes courtesy of another substitute in Ella Toone, who tucked home a well-hit finesse shot into the bottom right-hand corner.
The game was put beyond doubt just two minutes later thanks to a well-deserved goal from Hemp, who after watching the ball take numerous deflections, let it fall to her feet and fired it into the top right-hand corner, leaving Van Veenendaal motionless.
Just as it all seemed over, Mead ended the night in style, capitalising on a poor clearance to take the ball in the box and calmly slot home into the bottom left-hand corner.
This convincing victory over the reigning European champions will give the Lionesses all the momentum and confidence in the world heading into their final friendly with Switzerland and the tournament as a whole, whilst the Netherlands will want to forget this night and regroup and recover quickly if they want any chance of retaining their title in July.