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England women earn controversial Euro 2017 win over Spain

Fran Kirby burst on to the England scene at the World Cup in 2015 and has impressed so far in the Netherlands Fran Kirby burst on to the England scene at the World Cup in 2015 and has impressed so far in the Netherlands

England benefited from a bizarre refereeing decision to beat Spain and take a huge step towards the Women's Euro 2017 quarter-finals.

In rain-soaked conditions in the Netherlands, Spain dominated the game with 78% possession, but came up against an England side who were resolute in defence and had strikers who scored from two shots on goal.

Fran Kirby took Ellen White's pass and scored at the near post in the second minute, before Jodie Taylor wrapped the game up five minutes from time with her fourth Euro 2017 goal from Jordan Nobbs' flick.

But that only told half the story as Spain were denied a potential equaliser before Taylor's goal when referee Carina Vitulano awarded a penalty for White's handball but then confused the whole stadium when she changed her mind after deciding it was accidental.

Although the result was harsh on Spain, who played some brilliant football, Mark Sampson's team were rewarded for their ruthlessness in attack to add to their record 6-0 win over Scotland in their opening game.

They now only need a draw in their final group match against Portugal to guarantee their progression and a position as group winners.

That could mean they avoid France in the quarter-finals, a team England have not beaten since 1974.

Referee decisions cause confusion

Before the refereeing confusion ensued around the penalty, England had cause to feel aggrieved themselves when Millie Bright was denied what looked like a clear goal when she was found by Nobbs at the back post from a free-kick and headed into the top corner.

The assistant's flag was raised for offside, but with Bright clearly onside, it was perhaps adjudged that Lucy Bronze interfered with play by running towards the Spanish goalkeeper.

"The ball was two feet above my head, so I'm not sure how I could have interfered with that," said the England defender.

That all paled into insignificance compared to the Spanish team's bewilderment in the second half when the referee changed her mind about the spot-kick.

It could have been seen as a harsh penalty decision as White slipped when the ball was crossed into the box, with it skipping up and striking her arm. But the referee was unequivocal as she pointed to the spot. Confusion then reigned.

After White, Bronze and skipper Steph Houghton spoke to the referee and the Spanish fans prepared for a potential equaliser, the whole stadium was then left baffled as a free-kick was awarded to England.

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