In a decisive match, England struck three times after the break to down the Welsh and leave them banking on other results to reach the World Cup play-offs as the Lionesses booked their spot in France.
Wales look for an early advantage
Much had been talked of the match before it even went ahead. When the tickets went on sale, all of them including the England away allocation were sold out in 24 hours which is rarely heard of in women’s football. Such was the magnitude and ramifications of the match.
There was going to a hostile and predominately Welsh crowd which the Welsh team hoped would push them onto victory as well as other tactics such as narrowing the pitch as far as they were allowed to. The Dragons tried to get every edge they could as they were hosting the Lionesses but ultimately it all came down to what happened on the pitch. 90 minutes from possible history or heartbreak.
The Welsh looked to repeat their successes from their match in Southampton as they sat deep to stifle the English attack and then hit them on the counter. The Lionesses looked a bit nervy at the start with some errors but they got the edge when Nikita Parris headed in after Alex Greenwood’s effort hit the crossbar. Parris got there first, headed the ball into the net and wheeled away in celebration.
However, those celebrations were cut short after a late offside call with video replays showing that the goal should have stood. The Welsh were the unlucky ones with their goal back in Southampton not given so it seemed to have balanced out.
Buoyed on by the crowd, Wales stood firm in the face of England with visitors having most of the ball. Half time came and it was still scoreless, the match anyone's with history beconing for the hosts.
However, the second half was where England showed their class and why they are where they are in the world rankings. You could sense that with the endless waves of attacks that something would happen.
The red wall was there to be broken and they breached it in the 57 minute. Laura O’Sullivan's partial clearance of Jordan Nobbs' cross falling to Fran Kirby. The Chelsea attacker with the vision - with an onrushing Loren Dykes heading towards her - to pass it to Toni Duggan who broke finally gave England the lead.
The floodgates had seemed to open as it didn’t take long for the lead to be doubled. The corner that was taken came to nothing but Kayleigh Green headed it out. Yet again, it fell to an English player. Lucy Bronze passed it to Jill Scott whose looping header beat O’Sullivan.
Parris wrapped up the win for England, finally getting a goal that stood. The diving header was a brave one as a she narrowly avoided getting kicked in the head by a Welsh boot.
A ticket to France
The Lionesses held on and managed to secure the win, booking their place in France next summer. This campaign had been a tumultuous from with the 6-0 win against Russia, the controversies surrounding the previous manager and Phil Neville taking the reigns. He had experience of playing in huge, highly pressured games and it helped here. There had been much talk when he first took over but there were encouraging signs with that second half performance.
Whilst England head off to Kazakhstan to finish qualifying with hopefully another win, the Welsh have to wait to see how the rest of the matches go. The Dragons had an impressive qualifying campaign going undefeated in seven out of their eight games; they performed excellently on the pitch, inspired and captured the hearts of a nation.
However, they will need several results to go their way for a play-off spot but this campaign has made people take note of improvements happening both on and off the pitch. Despite the defeat on the night in front of a record crowd, this is only just the beginning for Jayne Ludlow's Dragons.