England suffered Women’s World Cup semi-final heartbreak once more, exiting the competition with a 2-1 defeat to the reigning Champions the USA.
City striker Ellen White found the net once again with her sixth goal of the tournament, temporarily lifting herself top of the Golden Boot charts, but her effort was bookended by first-half strikes from Christen Press and Alex Morgan, as the holders continued their trophy defence.
Captain Steph Houghton also saw a late penalty saved, while White had a goal ruled out for offside by VAR, in a dramatic end to the game, which also saw Millie Bright sent off for a second yellow card.
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The defeat meant the Lionesses missed out on the chance to reach the country’s first senior World Cup Final since 1966, falling at the last four hurdle for the second successive edition, and marked the end of City’s representation in France, with seven of Nick Cushing’s side among Phil Neville’s 23-player squad.
Five City stars were named in the starting line-up, with Houghton and Jill Scott continuing their 100% record of appearances in the tournament. Keira Walsh, Demi Stokes and White also made the 11, while goalkeeper Karen Bardsley could only make the bench with a hamstring injury. Youngster Georgia Stanway was also amongst the substitutes.
There was cause for surprise in America’s line-up with joint top scorer Rapinoe, who had netted her side’s last four goals, named on the bench, alongside former City player Carli Lloyd.
Against the current holders and tournament top scorers with 22 goals (double the number of England efforts), the test could not have been much tougher and the Lionesses’ nerves were evident in the opening exchanges, as the USA dominated before opening the scoring on the ten minute mark.
Christen Press broke the deadlock, heading home Kelley O'Hara’s cross at the backpost.
England responded well to the setback though, levelling inside ten minutes, as top scorer White clipped Beth Mead’s delivery in off the post, moving top of the Golden Boot list and lifting herself to fifth in her country’s all-time goalscoring chart in the process.
The respite would last only 12 minutes though, as the USA restored their advantage with Morgan bagging a birthday goal, equalling White’s tally of six for the tournament.
Walsh almost found an equaliser with a well-struck effort from distance but Alyssa Naeher clawed the strike away, and the Champions headed into the break with a 2-1 lead.
The second period heralded little in terms of goalmouth action until the 70 minute mark, as White pounced to slot the ball beyond Alyssa Naeher once more – only to be denied by VAR.
Further drama would follow with just eight minutes remaining, as White was upended in the box, attempting to convert Stokes’ cross. Another VAR decision ruled a foul and a penalty was awarded. Captain Houghton stepped up to strike but saw her low effort saved by Naeher.
With time running out, England’s task became harder still when Bright was shown a second yellow card, and the Lionesses could not muster another route into the clash, despite the seven additional minutes.
The USA’s triumph will see the holders face either European Champions the Netherlands or Olympic silver medallists Sweden in Sunday’s Final at the Stade de Lyon at 4pm BST, while England will compete in the Third-Place Play-Off at the Stade de Nice 24 hours earlier.
Commiserations to our Lionesses. Congratulations to the USA.