England Overcome A Mighty Nigeria Display And James' Dismissal To Progress

All the action from the Lionesses' World Cup round of 16 tie
11:27, 07 Aug 2023

England triumphed 4-2 on penalties after a goalless draw with Nigeria in their round of 16 World Cup tie. They overcame a sending off for the talismanic Lauren James and a Nigeria side who outplayed them for long periods to emerge the victors.

As they have often been guilty of at this tournament, England started slowly. Nigeria had the best of the opening chances, with the Lionesses not venturing a shot on their goal until Alessia Russo’s distance effort was beaten away by Chiamaka Nnadozie in the 23rd minute.

England were losing runners down their right channel early on. Mary Earps had an uncomfortable time with a Rasheedat Ajibade cross. Michelle Alozie had a bullet header blocked by Russo.

Still, Nigeria kept turning the screw. Former England youth star Ashleigh Plumptre cannoned a fierce shot off the Lionesses bar. Ajibade fired the rebound towards goal, drawing a superb stop from Earps. 

England improved when a Oluwatosin Demehin miskick allowed Russo here aforementioned long-range strike. Lauren James sent a difficult back-to-goal hit over the bar. She would take on two more volleys from distance, trying to influence the game in her typical glittering style.

Rachel Daly drew a great save from an Alex Greenwood corner as England hit some semblance of the rhythm that had deserted them in the early going. The pair combined again to nearly engineer a breakthrough. A Greenwood free kick saw Daly shoved in the box. A penalty was initially awarded before a VAR check ruled it out. England narrowly missed out on emerging from the half with more than they deserved.

Nigeria threatened after half time. The precision weapon of Ajibade’s crossing once again unfurled England. This time the delivery reached Kanu, whose looping header hit Earps’ crossbar. Sarina Wiegman’s side were made to weather waves of Nigerian pressure in the opening minutes of the second period, with Russo being the only player to periodically break into the opposition half.

Kanu flashed a cross in front of the England goal. None of her teammates could connect with the ball but, until the steadying influence of Jess Carter, neither could England’s floundering defence.


England’s first real foray forward in the second half saw them win a free kick in the left channel. Greenwood’s whipped delivery was a gift for Russo, but it was one she spurned. The striker glanced her header wide to offer respite to the Nigerian defence. 

Georgia Stanway and Russo combined to gain some headway on the right. Lauren Hemp took advantage and got a shot away but it was well-blocked by Christy Ucheibe. England were imposing themselves now though. The pattern was similar to the first half, with Wiegman’s side having to ride the pressure before spaces began to open up in the Nigeria defence.

A Daly header from a corner drew Nnadozie into an incredible save. The Nigeria stopper collected the rebound. It was a potentially match-winning moment from the shot-stopper and one that got the Nigerian contingent in the crowd on its feet.

Disaster struck when James was sent off for a needless stamp on Michelle Alozie. There was a question of intent as her studs met the grounded player but however it was meant, it was the sort of play that is grossly unacceptable. The frustrations of the goalless scoreline spilled over and left England without their in-form player. She will now miss the remainder of the tournament, having accrued a three game ban for violent conduct.

England were now left in the unenviable position of facing 30 minutes of extra time with ten players on the field. James’ dismissal was the first during Wiegman’s tenure as manager, leaving the head coach dealing with the loss of a Lioness.

Nigeria had the best chance of the first half. The ball found Alozie unmarked in the left half-space. She pulled her shot wide, looking weary as she struck a looping shot into the side-netting. The pace of a fiercely contested game was starting to show on both sides. 

Substitute Beth England looked bright in the second half of extra time. The addition of fresh legs gave the Lionesses a new dimension, even if they were fighting a losing battle with a player missing. Katie Zelem was introduced too, with one eye on penalties. They almost didn’t need them when England flashed one narrowly wide from a long free kick.

But alas, England faced a penalty shootout at a World Cup. A burden multiple iterations of the national side have had to shoulder. England got off to a disastrous start with Georgia Stanway sending her spot kick badly wide. Desire went the same way with the same result. Beth England made no mistake with a confident strike. Alozie sent hers high into the packed stand.

Daly swept hers into the top corner with aplomb. Ajibade slid hers past Earps, who went the right way. Greenwood tucked hers away nicely. Earps was rooted as Ucheibe pinged hers into the net. Chloe Kelly smashed in the final penalty and it was a case of best til last as she lashed it into the top corner. England won the tie 4-2 on penalties when, one several occasions, it looked like it would slip from their grasp.

England will need to do more than this if they’re to go all the way at this World Cup. And yet they’ve done more than the likes of the United States and Brazil have managed in reaching the quarter-final stage. While the Lionesses are in the pot, there is hope. But Wiegman will know they got away with one here. Hope wins matches, it doesn’t win trophies.

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