Home ยป Lauren James sent off as England beat Nigeria on penalties

Lauren James sent off as England beat Nigeria on penalties

by Zoe Hodges

Three Manchester United players remain at the Women’s World Cup after Vilde Boe Risa’s Norway depart and England scrape through on penalties.

Most were confident heading into the match that England could get the job done against Nigeria in 90 minutes but it wasn’t to be.

A changed starting line up from the 6-1 dismantling of China saw the Lionesses revert back to their old formation with Katie Zelem and Ella Toone both taking a seat on the bench.

Earps had a good game. She was called into action more than England had likely planned for.

In the first half, Nigeria were the more dominant side and only the crossbar and the strong hands of Earps kept the score at 0-0.

A penalty for England after Rachel Daly was pushed over in a free kick was overturned by VAR.

Again, in the second half, some big saves from Earps kept the scores level and at the other end, chances for ex-United stars Lauren James and Alessia Russo went begging.

Daly also had a chance or two but was denied by the Nigerian keeper. The better opportunities were still falling for the African side.

As extra-time loomed, James, who had been marked out of this game, saw red. Frustration got the better of her and she stood deliberately on a Nigerian player as she got to her feet.

It was a moment that was compared to David Beckham’s sending off in the 98 World Cup.

The initial on-field decision was a yellow card but VAR called the ref over to the monitor and James was shown a deserved straight red.

Katie Zelem was brought on just to take a penalty in her first major tournament and with only one game under her belt. Wiegman showed faith in her by putting her on in that high pressured moment. However, it didn’t come down to that.

Mary Earps had saved England in a shootout before against Brazil in the finalissima but with Georgia Stanway missing England’s first, the United shot-stopper was up against it.

She guessed the right way but she didn’t need to – Oparanozie shot wide.

Beth England blasted England’s second penalty into the back of the net whilst Alozie’s was again off target.

England were in control but they had to keep their cool. Luckily they held their nerve as Daly, Alex Greenwood and Chloe Kelly all converted their spot kicks.

You could see the relief on the England players faces. They didn’t deserve to win that game but that’s football.

Even though Earps didn’t save a penalty, her presence in goal was enough to distract two of the shooters and she was close to saving one of the others too. She will have taken a lot of confidence from that performance.

The Lionesses will play in the quarter-finals on Saturday 11am BST.

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