England's Lionesses through to World Cup quarter finals after beating Nigeria on penalties despite red card

7 August 2023, 11:22 | Updated: 7 August 2023, 13:07

England's women are through to the quarter finals
England's women are through to the quarter finals. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

England's Lionesses are through to the World Cup quarter finals after Nigeria took them to a nail-biting penalty shootout.

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They were made to work for penalties after they were reduced to 10 women when Chelsea's Lauren James was sent off for stamping on her opponent.

Nigeria held Sarina Wiegman's side for all of normal time, which ended with James stamping on the back of defender Michelle Alozie.

Melissa Borjas dismissed the 21-year-old after a VAR check, a terrible reversal of fortunes for a young player who was beginning to make a name for herself at the tournament down under.

The video replay showed James, making just her 15th appearance, had stamped down on the Nigerian after the two got caught into a tussle with just three minutes of normal time left.

Read more: England's Lionesses storm into World Cup last 16 after thrashing China

England's stars roared as they overcame Nigeria on penalties
England's stars roared as they overcame Nigeria on penalties. Picture: Alamy

But despite looking stretched at times as Nigeria tried to take advantage of their extra player, England rallied to outlast their opponents to beat them from the spot.

England endured the worst possible start to the shootout, when Georgia Stanway blasted wide left of the goal.

But they were reprieved when Desire Oparanozie missed in almost the exact same fashion.

England then got into their rhythm, with Bethany England, Rachel Daly and Alex Greenwood putting their spot kicks away before Manchester City's Chloe Kelly made no mistake and fired the Lionesses through.

Kelly was the shootout hero
Kelly was the shootout hero. Picture: Alamy

England won the shootout 4-2 and will play either Colombia or Jamaica in the next round.

"It's amazing. Anything that's thrown at us, we show what we're capable of. We dig deep as a group and we believe in our ability," Kelly said.

"We've been practising penalties a lot and, yeah, it's working! When I walk up to take a penalty, I think, 'I'm gonna score'.

"That’s how I look at it. Once I win that mental battle, we're good."

She added: "Nah, [it’s] definitely not [about me]. It's the team. We did in the Euros, we did it in the Finalissima [against Brazil] and we did it again here. We keep pushing forward. There's more to come from this special team."

Nigeria did well to hold off England and came close to opening the scoring as they hit the crossbar in each half.

Ashleigh Plumptre struck it in the first half while Uchenna Kanu sent a header over goalkeeper Mary Earps, but it hit the top of the bar.

Earps was called up again to keep the African side out, while at the other end England were denied a first half penalty after an apparent push on Daly, but it was overturned by VAR.

Randy Waldrum, the Nigeria manager, said he was proud of his side's efforts.

James will now have to endure inevitable comparisons to David Beckham's kick at Diego Simeone during the 1998 France World Cup, which saw the superstar get sent off before England crashed out of that tournament.

"It's things that happen in football, it's not nice to see a red card but I felt like going down to 10 players we dealt with it very well, we were super-resilient and didn't let them score," England teammate Lauren Hemp said.

"It's one of those things. We will get around Lauren James in the coming days, she's still very young."

A delighted Prince William and Kate tweeted congratulations to the team. "Well done @Lionesses! It was hard-fought but now we're on to the quarter-finals. Good luck."