Before a captivated audience of 53,512 fans at Stade de Lyon, the U.S. Women’s National Team battled past England, ranked No. 3 in the World, with a 2-1 triumph that secures the USA a record fifth appearance in a FIFA Women’s World Cup Final.
On her 30th birthday Alex Morgan tallied the game winner on a header in the 31st minute after Christen Press had opened the scoring, also with a header, in the 10th minute. The Americans got a victory-securing penalty kick stop from goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher late in the second half. It was the first-ever penalty kick save by a U.S. goalkeeper in the regulation time at a World Cup.
The USWNT will now contest the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final against the winner of Wednesday’s second semifinal between the Netherlands and Sweden, which kicks off at 3 p.m. ET from Stade de Lyon (FOX, Telemundo). Kickoff for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final at Stade de Lyon is set for 11 a.m. ET on Sunday, July 7, and the game will be broadcast on FOX and Telemundo.
U.S. head coach Jill Ellis made two changes to the starting XI from the side that beat France in the quarterfinal, bringing in Press up top for Megan Rapinoe (who had a hamstring strain) and restoring Lindsey Horan to the midfield in place of Samantha Mewis. The changes proved key as both players provided fresh legs, contributed to the scoresheet and also made an impact on the defensive side of the ball.
Inside the first five minutes Rose Lavelle nutmegged England defender Millie Bright along the right end line, cut inside and blasted a shot at Carly Telford in the England goal that she palmed the ball away. The rebound evaded two crashing U.S. players before another chance was put over the bar. Moments later, Press floated a free kick into the box that drifted just over Morgan’s head as she tried to redirect it on goal in an early dress rehearsal of events to come.
Ten minutes in, the USA’s early pressure produced the game’s initial breakthrough. Tobin Heath’s through-ball was dummied by Lavelle, and Kelley O’Hara ran onto the ball down the right wing before whipping in a far post cross. The ball flew over England defender Lucy Bronze and straight to Press, who powered a header past Telford into the upper left corner for her first goal of the World Cup and the 1-0 lead.
Ellen White responded for England nine minutes later, deftly redirecting in Beth Mead’s cross after sneaking behind the U.S. defense. Her shot hit the right post and caromed in, giving Naeher no chance.
The teams continued trading chances with Lavelle forcing Telford into a strong save in the 25thminute.
Just after the half-hour mark, Morgan scored what proved to be the game-winner, heading home Horan’s cross for her tournament leading sixth goal. At the other end in the U.S. goal, Naeher came up with a flying finger-tip save to preserve the 2-1 advantage as England banged on the door looking for an equalizer just before half time.
Morgan is the first player in Women’s World Cup history to score a goal on her birthday. She turned 30 today.
An hour into the match, Press had the chance to put the U.S. ahead by two but failed to capitalize on a Telford mistake, curling a shot wide of the left post after she had picked off a pass from the England ‘keeper at the top of the box.
The miss looked to have cost the USA in the 67th minute when White slipped between the U.S. center backs and rolled the ball into the net. After a review, the Video Assistant Referee correctly determined that White was offside.
White nearly made amends in the 78th minute when Nikita Paris centered for her and referee Edina Alves Batista awarded a penalty kick after VAR revealed that White had been inadvertently tripped by U.S. defender Becky Sauerbrunn. England captain Stephanie Houghton stepped up to take the spot kick, but Naeher read her well and got down to her right for the massive and perhaps historic save.
With time draining away, England continued to push hard for a crucial second goal. The pressure got the better of center back Millie Bright however as she was sent off after receiving a second yellow card in the 86 th minute for a cleats-up foul on Morgan, who she had earlier smacked in the face in the 40th minute to draw her first caution.
Despite seven minutes of added time, the U.S. salted the game away with two-time FIFA World Player of the Year Carli Lloyd coming on to harry the England defense, win a string of free kicks that took the sting out of final minutes and help push the USA into a third consecutive World Cup Final.