LONDON (AP)From a record-breaking night at Wembley, England will only want to remember one set of numbers.
The ”77,768” flashing on the big screens during the second half of Saturday’s game against Germany confirmed the biggest-ever crowd either of these teams have played in front of.
”It’s unbelievable,” England striker Ellen White said after her side’s 2-1 defeat. ”The support, the noise, the atmosphere. We are really sorry we couldn’t get the result.”
For this was an unforgiving spotlight for the hosts, playing only their second game at the national stadium that is usually the preserve of male footballers.
Klara Buhl’s stoppage-time winner for Germany handed England a fifth loss in seven games, starting with the World Cup semifinal defeat against the United States in July.
”I’ve got to take responsibility for those results,” England manager Phil Neville said. ”I’m the one that picks the team. I’m the one that sets the tactics. I train them, I talk to them, I communicate with them.
”So ultimately the buck has got to start with me and finish with me because the team always reflects the manager. At this moment in time the results aren’t good enough which means that I’m not good enough.”
It was a rare self-critical moment from the former Manchester United and England player, who is coming to the end of the second year of his first job in the women’s game.
”You don’t play into the trap,” Neville said, ”and we played into their trap, and they smelt blood.”
On the field following the game, White addressed the fans after becoming the first woman to score for England at Wembley – five years after the team’s debut at the stadium ended in a 3-0 loss to Germany in front of around 45,000 spectators.
”I’m really sorry we couldn’t get the result,” she said.
White did turn things around for England just before halftime, canceling out Alexandra Popp’s ninth-minute header with a clipped finish from close range.
But just when the Lionesses were preparing to celebrate a draw against the world’s second-ranked team, Buhl struck.
The only comfort for the English was the evidence of the growing appeal of women’s football.
”This is what the women’s game has needed,” said England forward Nikita Parris, who had a first-half penalty saved before White’s equalizer. ”We have earned the right to be playing in front of 77,000 people at Wembley because ultimately we have put hours and hours of graft and finally women’s football is on the map.”
Wembley was a sell-out with 86,619 tickets issued but a day of rain likely contributed to around 10 percent of fans not turning up in north London.
But the English attracted what appears to be the biggest-ever crowd for a women’s friendly, anywhere.
The previous best-attended women’s game was in 1999 when more than 90,000 watched the U.S. beat China in the World Cup final at the Rose Bowl in California.
The next biggest crowd came at Wembley in the 2012 London Olympics when just over 80,000 saw the U.S. defeat Japan.
The increased interest in the Lionesses is highlighted by the fact Wembley has added around 30,000 fans to the crowd that saw England lose to Germany at the stadium five years ago.
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports