A moment of brilliance from Alessia Russo helped power England into the final of Euro 2022, beating Sweden 4-0 in front of a record-breaking crowd at Bramall Lane.
The Manchester United striker is a regular fixture off the bench for the Lionesses but continued to put pressure on Sarina Wiegman’s team selection when she scored with an audacious backheel (68), sending the ball wriggling past goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl at the near post.
It saw England go 3-0 up, having taken the advantage in a first half that saw them tested by Sweden for large parts. But Beth Mead (34) finally broke the deadlock, collecting a pass from Lucy Bronze before finishing on the turn for her sixth goal of Euro 2022. She is now two goals clear in the Golden Boot race, ahead of Germany’s Alexandra Popp and Russo.
Bronze added a goal to her evening’s work early in the second half as Sweden failed to deal with a corner. The right-back nodded home with a free header, but the celebrations were abruptly halted for a VAR check for offside. However, after lengthy checks, the goals stood.
After failing to deal with Russo’s backheel, Lindahl’s evening went from bad to worse when Fran Kirby scored England’s fourth. She spotted the goalkeeper off her line and went for the lob. Lindahl did manage to get a hand to the ball, but not enough as it looped over her head and rolled into the back of the net.
Despite a nervous opening half an hour, the Lionesses’ qualities shone through once again in front of a crowd of 28,624 – a record attendance for a Women’s Euros semi-final. They will now face either Germany or France in Sunday’s final at Wembley.
With just 20 seconds played at Bramall Lane, Mary Earps was called into action as Sweden gave their opponents a taste of what was to come for the majority of the first half. Sofia Jakobsson was released down the left with only the goalkeeper to beat, but Earps stuck out her leg to help the ball loop away.
The teams continued to trade blows early on – Mead sending a corner wide of the post before her Arsenal teammate Stina Blackstenius sent a header onto the crossbar.
Sweden continued to probe in a chess-like game before Mead made the move to fire home her sixth goal of Euro 2022. It gave England the shot in the arm they needed and almost scored a second before half-time. The best of the chances came as Georgia Stanway sent in a searching cross for Ellen White, but the striker could not get there in time.
Sweden would have hoped to hit back immediately after the break, but instead quickly found themselves 2-0 behind after Bronze’s free header.
England could have scored a third before the hour too as Russo made an immediate impact off the bench – as now seems to be the norm. She raced down the right flank, picking out the incoming Lauren Hemp at the back post, but the winger sent the ball onto the underside of the crossbar with the goal at her mercy.
But the game arguably hinged on two second-half minutes. Earps made a world-class save to tip Blackstenius’ chip over the crossbar from close range in the 66th minute, before Russo’s sensational backheel at the other end shortly after.
From then on, it was all England, as Kirby again capitalized on some questionable goalkeeping from Lindahl. Russo could have added her second and England’s fifth late on too, but she could not reach Hemp’s cross in time.
But it was not needed as England cruised into the final against Sweden, ranked second in the world, setting up a historic Wembley showdown.