Arsenal’s Mead giving England edge in Euros

Ahead of final at Wembley, praise for Gunners star’s class

Thursday, 28th July — By Catherine Etoe

Beth Mead_ credit Catherine Etoe

Beth Mead’s goal set England on the way to a 4-0 victory against Sweden. Photo: Catherine Etoe

SHE unlocked Sweden’s defence with a goal and two assists to set England on their way to a Wembley final, but Arsenal’s Beth Mead is refusing to think about personal triumphs.

Another record-breaking crowd, this one of 28,624, were in raptures as Sarina Wiegman’s team dismantled second-in-the-world Sweden 4-0 at Bramall Lane on Tuesday. It was a thrilling encounter between two of the world’s best sides and sets England up for a showpiece final against either Germany or France on Sunday.

Having stylishly slotted home England’s first and her sixth of the tournament, Mead has now equalled Germany legend Inka Grings’s record for goals scored at a European Championship.

The 27-year-old still has a chance to break that tally in the final, and as well as returning home with a certain medal and an enhanced reputation, could well snatch the golden boot too.

But Mead, who was hailed by UEFA’s technical panel for the quality of her passing and link-up play – plus that crucial 34th-minute opener – is not considering records or gongs.

“It’s nice to be up there but sometimes being chased isn’t the nicest,” she said afterwards. “I’m really happy to be where I am, but it’s not something I’m thinking about, I’m just thinking about winning with the team.”

Mead’s classy turn and volley in the box may not have produced the standout goal in a match watched by a peak BBC1 audience of 9.3 million.

That honour went to Manchester United youngster Alessia Russo, whose cheeky back-heel went through goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl’s legs for the third.

Fran Kirby lobbed her old Chelsea teammate Lindahl for the fourth, but Mead’s opener set the platform for a comprehensive win after a shaky start from England.

And that was not lost on her teammates.

“The importance of Beth Mead’s goal was significant,” said Georgia Stanway.

“That allowed us to build confidence and go from there, and in the second half it opened up.”

Captain and fellow Gunner Leah Williamson added: “You’ve got to take your chances against top teams in big games, and that’s what Beth did. It was an incredible finish.”

There was disappointment for clubmate Stina Blackstenius, who could have broken English hearts had her early effort not hit the crossbar and her later goalbound shot not been saved by Mary Earps. But the night belonged to England, and skipper Williamson hopes Sunday will too.

“For me, to walk out on to that pitch was an incredible feeling tonight and I can imagine at the weekend that will be incredible,” she said.

“I hope that crowd at Wembley has as good a time as we’re going to have, because I promise you, we’ll enjoy it.”

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