Sloppy Lionesses fall to rare defeat amid hectic schedule as Olympic hopes threatened by Netherlands

The Lionesses conceded a last-minute winner against the Netherlands  (PA)
The Lionesses conceded a last-minute winner against the Netherlands (PA)

It is rare to describe an England performance under Sarina Wiegman as sloppy, but this display here in Utrecht was.

For just the third time in 41 games under Wiegman, the Lionesses were beaten and their quest to book Team GB a spot at next summer’s Olympics just got a whole lot harder.

There was a hint of misfortune about this 2-1 defeat, with Danielle van de Donk clearly offside for the Netherlands’ opening goal.

VAR is not in use in the Nations League, although it is planned to be for next year’s finals, and without it England were punished.

They cannot solely blame a lack of technology, though, and captain Millie Bright admitted afterwards there were “no excuses”.

“We put ourselves in that position in the first couple of phases where we aren’t clearing the ball, it ricochets off and she is clearly offside,” she said. “But I never want to make excuses in the game.”

England were particularly poor in the first-half, where they lined up in the 3-4-1-2 formation they used during the World Cup.

They improved after the break, switching to a back-four, and Alessia Russo’s goal midway through the second-half was deserved.

“The first-half was very poor,” said midfielder Georgia Stanway. “You can see that we weren’t up to our standard.

“We made many mistakes in all areas. We were much better in the second-half when we changed formation and we are able to press their back-three, and they ended up changing formation to obviously counter-attack that.”

England were punished late on as Renate Jansen struck in the final minute of normal time with an emphatic finish. It came after another error, with Alex Greenwood giving the ball away too easily.

It was an uncharacteristic mistake from a player who was one of England’s top performers at the World Cup, but is it any surprise given the schedule of the women’s game right now?

The World Cup final was just 37 days ago and this weekend the Women’s Super League kicks off.

Players are being pushed to the extreme and, as Wiegman said when she named her squad for these games, she warned they are not robots.

This performance underlined that. The only relief for England is that there are still four group games left and time to turn things around.

“Four more games, so four more times we’ve got to show up,” said Stanway.