By Our Reporter
England have scraped through to the quarter-finals of the Women’s World Cup with a dramatic penalty shootout victory over Nigeria after surviving a gruelling onslaught having gone down to 10 players.
Despite the first penalty-taker, Georgia Stanway, firing wide, Nigeria missed their next two efforts and the European champions secured their spot in the last eight when Chloe Kelly smashed in the winning kick.
In an outburst of frustration, Lauren James stamped on Michelle Alozie’s back in the 87th minute after losing possession and was rightly shown a red card following a video assistant referee (VAR) review.
England were given an almighty scare but will face Colombia or Jamaica next.
It was an excruciating watch for England supporters in Brisbane as England played 120 minutes on a knife’s edge and were largely second best to Nigeria.
James’ petulance meant England had to navigate extra time 10 players, and Nigeria had their tails up following a sustained period of pressure prior to the Chelsea star’s sending-off.
The 11-time African champions executed their gameplan to perfection, frustrating England, causing them problems on the break and winning almost every duel.
They hit the crossbar in each half, Ashleigh Plumptre’s powerful drive ricocheting off the woodwork before Uchenna Kanu’s header looped over goalkeeper Mary Earps and bounced off the top of the bar.
Earps was kept busy throughout, needing to produce smart saves to deny Plumptre at her near post in the first half and later keeping out Uchenna Kanu, who had an excellent performance.
Sarina Wiegman’s England side thought they had a penalty in the first half when Rachel Daly went down claiming a push by Rasheedat Ajibade, but it was overturned by VAR.
Eventually, England stumbled to the end of normal time lacking the fluidity they showed in abundance in the impressive display against China and held on to seal the deal in a shootout.
Only 24 hours earlier, back-to-back champions the USA were knocked out of the competition, and England were forced to show resilience to overcome one of their most challenging matches of Wiegman’s tenure.