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England captain Houghton defends head coach Neville after defeat

UK Sport | Published:

Steph Houghton says the criticism of the England Women’s head coach is unfair.

England Women’s captain Steph Houghton jumped to the defence of under-fire head coach Phil Neville after Saturday’s historic fixture with Germany at Wembley.

Klara Buhl struck in the 90th minute to hand the visitors a 2-1 win and make it five defeats in seven matches for the Lionesses.

The fixture was played out in front of a record-breaking crowd of 77,768 – the highest ever for an England Women’s home fixture but it fell short of the overall record for a women’s match hosted in this country.

While it was a fantastic occasion, with many children experiencing Wembley for the first time, the focus turned to the ex-Manchester United defender after another loss.

But Houghton said: “I think some of it (criticism) has been really unfair to be honest. As players we have to take a lot of responsibility.

“As individuals, our performances can be better, but we’re all in it together and it’s all about the players and staff and making sure we’re on the same page.

“With the profile of Phil himself and obviously now the team, we know there will be criticism that comes our way.

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“I think we can be a little bit more positive than we have been over the last few months, but ultimately the only way we will get positive remarks is if we keep winning.”

Germany only needed three minutes to open the scoring, when Alexandra Popp headed home to punish England for a lacklustre start.

Neville’s team looked overwhelmed during the opening exchanges and he was visibly angry, but they regrouped and equalised a minute before half-time when Ellen White poked home a wonderful cross from Keira Walsh.

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Nikita Parris also failed to score from the penalty spot in the 36th minute and it would come back to cost the Lionesses.

With the game drawing to a close, Buhl, who had a goal ruled out for offside with 61 played, drilled into the corner to send the record crowd of 77,768 home having watched England suffer a defeat.

“The fans were tremendous throughout and the moment Ellen put the ball in the back of the net, you couldn’t hear anything at all. This is something we can remember, but we’re disappointed with the result,” Houghton added.

“I know people were watching us back at home during the World Cup and we had those that came out to France, but to see so many at Wembley was unbelievable and all I would say is stay with us.

“We are going through a bit of a tough time, but the intention of the girls is to work as hard as we possibly can and to take pride in wearing the England shirt.

“It’s been a long process since the World Cup. We had massive highs over there and really low lows and as players it’s important we continue to get back to form, but I’m realistic to know we don’t need to be peaking at this moment in time.

“We have been criticised, which is rightly so, but I think you have to look at the bigger picture. We’re bringing new players into the squad, we’re trying new things and this is the time to experiment.

“Like probably Phil and all the other girls have said, we’re a team that sticks together and we know the way and hopefully we can turn it around.”

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