England are alive at this World Cup but the Lionesses were scared like never before.
Ahead of this round of 16 duel, Sarina Wiegman warned that Nigeria was not a weakling, although nobody expected such a duel. England are in the quarter-finals, but only after 120 minutes of goalless football and a penalty shoot-out.
It was previously a night of frustration for England, which collapsed when Lauren James was sent off for a punch on Nigerian defender Michelle Alozie with three minutes left in regulation. A young England star wearing the number 7 shirt was sent off for a moment of madness at the World Cup. Sound familiar?
A week ago James and England could do no wrong at this World Cup as they defeated China and advanced to the Round of 16. However, Nigeria found a way to tame the Lionesses. This was the underdog’s tournament and the African side showed why.
They were more than a match for the European champions and created the best chances for 120 minutes. In contrast, England have been toothless and nowhere near the level at which they can play. In the first 15 minutes it was clear to England that Nigeria was in for a fight.
Even without Barcelona striker Asisat Oshoala in the starting XI, the Super Falcons looked menacing up front. Alozie’s header was saved by Alessia Russo on the line and Ashleigh Plumptre hit the bar. Goalkeeper Mary Earps made a nice save shortly afterwards.
Although Keira Walsh was back in midfield after miraculously recovering from a knee injury she sustained ten days ago, England were struggling to get going. Walsh was bypassed as the Lionesses went long trying to free Lauren Hemp and Russo through the canals.
It wasn’t until the middle of the first half that they finally had a chance. A poor save landed at Russo’s feet and Chiamaka Nnadozie made good saves to parry them off. Minutes later, Nnadozie was called on again to save a Rachel Daly volley after a corner fell to the full-back.
England finally had some momentum and just after half an hour thought they might get a penalty. A free kick came in and Daly went down after a push from Rasheedat Ajibade. It looked soft but not enough for VAR to intervene. It certainly wasn’t a clear and obvious foul.
However, referee Melissa Borjas was sent to the pitchside monitor and reversed her decision to award a penalty, much to the delight of Nigerian fans. Initially, the Brisbane crowd was flat, but their support now shifted to the underdogs.
Wiegman’s frustration on the bench was plain to see and the 3-4-1-2 formation that worked so well against China last week in England’s 6-1 win didn’t work. However, there was no change at half-time and the Lionesses hoped Nigeria would tire.
Their intensity had made this match an exceptionally physical one, but it seemed impossible to last 90 minutes. Nigeria only had 40 percent possession in the first half, despite there being nine shots. But the second half started like the first and a few minutes later Nigeria striker Uchenna Kanu headed the top of the bar.
Kanu caused problems on the right, she hopped past Alex Greenwood and threw in a low cross that somehow missed everyone. England’s chances proved slim. Russo headed wide from a Greenwood free-kick, Daly missed a shot from a cross and Hemp’s shot was blocked.
The match was an arm wrestling, which benefited Nigeria. Kanu missed another good chance from a corner and headed wide when she really needed to score. Daly had an even better opportunity with 15 minutes remaining and was England’s best of the game. A corner came in and she was uncovered, but her header landed right on Nnadozie. Despite this chance, Wiegman felt he had to change something.
The Lionesses’ frustration was evident and it boiled over as the game entered the closing minutes of regular time. James, who was tied up all night, messed with Alozie. Standing up, the Chelsea striker left a boot on her back. VAR intervened and the initial yellow card was rightly converted to a red. England now had a mountain to climb, especially going into extra time.
Nigeria continued to look the most dangerous and it seemed like the Lionesses were just waiting to get to the penalty shootout.
England were close to perfect in the shootout. Georgia Stanway missed their first goal but they kept their nerve and scored all four more goals while Nigeria rocketed two tries.
The heroine was, who else, Chloe Kelly. A year ago she scored the winning goal as England won the European Championship – and this time she converted the winning penalty. Sweet Caroline blared through the PA speakers and the nation breathed a sigh of relief.
https://www.standard.co.uk/sport/football/england-nigeria-lionesses-womens-world-cup-2023-chloe-kelly-b1099088.html The frustrated lionesses scared Nigeria before well-known heroine Chloe Kelly delivered again