England made a calamitous start to Women's Euro 2013 as a 94th-minute own-goal from the head of their goalkeeper, Karen Bardsley, condemned them to a first defeat by Spain in 17 years. Crushing was how Hope Powell described it. Careless and self-inflicted would also apply.
England's head coach absolved Bardsley of blame for a surprise setback that means victory over Russia on Monday is imperative with impressive France to come in the final group game. Otherwise Powell was unsparing in her criticism of a performance that produced a threat only after Spain scored in the fourth and 85th minutes. There was no time to respond with a third rescue act when Adriana Martín crossed in the dying seconds, the substitute Alexia Putellas pressured Bardsley and the ball slipped through her grasp, off her head and agonisingly over the line.
England players slumped to the ground in despair having arrived in Sweden unbeaten in 16 months but now beaten twice in eight days. Powell had boldly claimed ahead of the game that England's women were technically on a par with their male counterparts. All they shared afterwards was the misery of a summer without a tournament win at any level.
"I'm not going to single out one player. It is a disappointing night for everybody," said a visibly angry Powell. "There are 11 players on the pitch. I can't single out one when we didn't perform at all. We were slow to react, we made too many unforced errors and I could sense at half-time that they were nervous.
"Spain were alert to that and got their reward in the end. We just didn't perform. It's very disappointing. To go behind and come back, not once but twice, and then lose it in the dying seconds is crushing. But we have to move on."
Maybe it was expectation, the long wait for competitive action or Spain's polished opening, possibly a combination of all three, that made England stumble out of the blocks. Linkoping Arena was alive with mainly English support in a crowd of 5,190 but they were soon silenced as Spain took an early lead when Sonia Bermúdez sent Veronica Boquete clear and the captain sent a measured finish into the bottom cornerto finish.
Spain were clearly desperate to make up for lost time in their first appearance in a tournament finals for 16 years and to avenge defeats by England in qualification for both the 2009 Euros and the 2011 World Cup. The jolt woke England, however, and with Jill Scott's influence growing in central midfield they gained a measure of control and scored an almost identical equaliser. The Everton midfielder dissected the Spanish defence with a perfectly weighted pass through to Eniola Aluko. The Chelsea striker, scorer of three goals at Euro 2009, was calmness personified as she opened her Swedish account with a calm finish into the far corner.
There was a greater urgency to England's second-half display but not the quality with the final ball to hurt Spain. With five minutes remaining England failed to clear a corner and Jenni Hermoso converted through a crowded goalmouth. As at the start, Powell's team responded with a similar strike when Laura Bassett flicked the ball beyond keeper Ainhoa Tirapu home in the final minute of normal time. Worryingly for Powell, there was still time for one final sting.