Germany struck late to put a dampener on a historic day for England as a boisterous, record-breaking crowd for a Lionesses home international of 77,768 saw the hosts beaten.
Playing at the home of English football for the first time since a 3-0 defeat by the Germans in 2014 – attended by their previous home record crowd of 45,619 – the Lionesses were roared on magnificently throughout.
But Klara Buhl’s low clinical finish past Mary Earps in the 90th minute inflicted a fifth loss in seven matches on Phil Neville’s side.
Manchester City striker Ellen White had poked the World Cup semi-finalists level after a nervy and sloppy start from England saw Germany captain Alexandra Popp head in an eighth-minute opener.
England winger Nikita Parris saw her first-half penalty saved before White’s equaliser, and the match looked set for a draw during a quieter second half, until Buhl’s dramatic late strike.
The two-time world champions were worthy of their victory as there had been an element of controversy about the Lionesses’ equaliser, with replays showing that White was in an offside position when Keira Walsh delivered her dangerous cross. There was no video assistant referee system in operation for the friendly.
However, the visitors’ Kathrin Hendrich was fortunate to be shown only a yellow card for a dangerous challenge on England’s Beth Mead early on.
The result extended England’s wait for a first win on home soil against the Germans, who have won 21 of the 26 meetings between the sides.
A record-breaking evening
Saturday’s friendly at Wembley was a sell-out, with 86,619 tickets issued, but the attendance of 77,768 narrowly missed out on setting a new record for a women’s football fixture in the United Kingdom.
That remains the 80,203 who were at the same venue for the Olympic final between the United States and Japan in 2012.
But Saturday’s crowd became the largest to see a British women’s international team on home soil, surpassing the 70,584 that saw Great Britain beat Brazil 1-0 at Wembley in those London Olympics.
And it far exceeded the previous record for an England Women home match in their only previous appearance at the new Wembley five years ago.
On that occasion, almost 10,000 spectators did not turn up after about 55,000 tickets were initially allocated, and a similar number failed to attend on Saturday, with the torrential rain across large parts of the country possibly one of the factors, although the atmosphere was still outstanding.
England’s penalty woes continue
Parris’ first-half miss was her third from the past four penalties she has taken for England, and the Lionesses’ fourth failure from five.
The Lyon winger saw back-to-back spot-kicks against Argentina and Norway saved during World Cup victories, before Steph Houghton’s late penalty against the United States was also stopped in July’s semi-final.
Parris netted from the spot in a 3-3 draw in Belgium in August, but Merle Frohms denied England’s number seven with her feet at Wembley, after the Freiburg goalkeeper had brought down Mead in the area.
In addition to their penalty problems, the hosts will be concerned about their defending from aerial balls. Before this game, eight of the previous 12 goals against England had come from a cross or a corner. Popp’s early opener made it nine from 13.
The Lionesses have a long history of struggle in this fixture. Germany won the first 15 meetings between the two sides from 1984 onwards; England did not manage a draw until a goalless 2007 friendly, and took 21 attempts to record a first win, in the third-place play-off at the 2015 World Cup in Canada.
Germany, ranked second in the world, were good value for their victory at Wembley. They would love another win there in less than two years’ time – and a ninth European title – when the stadium hosts the Euro 2021 final.
Player of the match – Ellen White (England)
England are away to the Czech Republic for a friendly in Ceske Budejovice on Tuesday, 12 November at 19:15 GMT.