Sarina Wiegman praised Lauren Hemp’s performance in an adjusted role after the forward’s goal helped England beat the United States 2-1 in Friday’s friendly at Wembley.
Hemp, who usually operates as a winger, was deployed as a number nine as the European champions took on the reigning World Cup holders – with Ellen White having retired and Alessia Russo unavailable due to injury.
And the 22-year-old Manchester City player swiftly opened the scoring, finishing from close range in the 10th minute when Beth Mead delivered the ball into the box and Alana Cook misjudged her attempt to intervene.
Lionesses boss Wiegman said: “She’s played there before, I’ve seen that. When she played at Bristol (City), she played there, Under-20s she played in that position sometimes.
“So we knew she could do it, but lately she hasn’t played there very much. So we didn’t want to give her all sorts of tasks, but we wanted to give her freedom to play and have some very simple tasks.
“She really took that and really understood what we were talking about. I think she really enjoyed herself, and so did we.”
Sophia Smith equalised in the 28th minute as the US punished England sloppiness at the back, with Georgia Stanway dispossessed.
Stanway then quickly made amends by restoring the lead with a 33rd-minute penalty awarded after Hailie Mace’s high boot made contact with Lucy Bronze’s face.
The spot-kick was given following a VAR check, and England then benefited from another shortly after as Trinity Rodman’s strike was ruled out, with Smith adjudged to have been offside in the build-up.
VAR also ensured a late penalty award against England for handball – with the ball having struck Hemp’s legs – was overturned as the Lionesses saw out a first win over the world’s number one team since 2017, and one which will only add to the sense of anticipation for their campaign at next summer’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
It was a 21st victory for England – who lost 2-1 to the US in the 2019 World Cup semi-finals – in 23 matches unbeaten under Wiegman.
While the Dutchwoman stressed that “you are the best team in the world when you have won the World Cup”, she said she felt her tenure had seen the team “grow very, very much”, adding: “I think we have proved ourselves that we can win against anyone.
“And what we just have to do is what we have in control, do our jobs, do our very best and stick together.”
It was a first loss in 22 games for the US, whose boss Vlatko Andonovski said of England: “They have players who can make a difference, they have an incredible coach – and I wouldn’t mind facing them in the final!”
The Lionesses’ return to the scene of July’s historic Euros triumph saw the 50th anniversary of the team marked in various ways, which included players from the first official England Women match, a 3-2 win over Scotland in Greenock in November 1972, receiving a bespoke cap each and the applause of the 76,000-plus crowd.
The game also saw England and the US wearing teal armbands in what they had said was “a show of unity and common cause…to stand in solidarity with sexual abuse victims”. The teams together held up a banner reading ‘PROTECT THE PLAYERS’ just before kick-off, while the Wembley arch was also lit teal.
The fixture came four days after the publication of a report from an independent investigation which said verbal and emotional abuse and sexual misconduct “had become systemic” in the National Women’s Soccer League in America.
And Wiegman said: “We celebrated lots of things, but also when this happens, you can’t just let it go. The timing is now, so we use this momentum to spread the word that this is unacceptable.”
Content provided by Radio NewsHub. Originally published on 2022-10-08 13:10:00.