Eng­land beat Nor­way to reach quar­ter­fi­nals

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY JOHN WAWROW

English women’s soc­cer fi­nally has a few World Cup mo­ments that de­serve remembering. In 15 stun­ning min­utes, the Three Lionesses over­came a 1-0 deficit, the blis­ter­ing heat on a sun­baked ar­ti­fi­cial turf field, and their own dis­ap­point­ing and brief tour­na­ment history. They beat Nor­way 2-1 on Mon­day, de­liv­er­ing Eng­land its first tour­na­ment knock­out-stage vic­tory.

“The first emo­tion I’m feel­ing is a real sense of pride for team,” coach Mark Samp­son said. “To show that char­ac­ter and re­silience to come back from a goal down in this tour­na­ment is an in­cred­i­ble achieve­ment.”

The win be­gan with stel­lar goal­keep­ing from Karen Bard­s­ley, who helped Eng­land weather Nor­way’s first-half push and keep the game goal­less.

And then, af­ter fall­ing be­hind on Solveig Gulbrandsen’s goal off a cor­ner kick in the 54th minute, Eng­land’s of­fense fi­nally found its range.

Steph Houghton tied it by head- ing in Fara Wil­liams’ cor­ner kick in the 61st minute. And de­fender Lucy Bronze, from just out­side the penalty area, won it in the 76th minute with a hard, line-drive shot that glanced in off the hand of goal­keeper In­grid Hjelm­seth.

“We showed an amaz­ing amount of char­ac­ter to­day,” said Bard­s­ley, who stopped four shots and was votes player of the match. “We went very, very deep to make it hap­pen.”

And they have an op­por­tu­nity to go even deeper.

Af­ter fail­ing to win a knock­out match in three pre­vi­ous World Cup ap­pear­ances, sixth- ranked Eng­land ad­vanced to a quar­ter­fi­nal Satur­day against host Canada at Van­cou­ver, Bri­tish Columbia.

“The in­di­vid­ual play­ers are now inked in the football history of Eng­land for­ever,” Samp­son said. “But I re­it­er­ate, we want this jour­ney to keep go­ing.”

It was another dis­ap­point­ing World Cup exit for the 11th-ranked Nor­we­gians, who won the 1995 cham­pi­onship un­der coach Even Pellerud. Nor­way fin­ished fourth in 2007, then was elim­i­nated in the group stage four years ago.

Not even Pellerud’s re­turn as coach in 2012 could make a dif­fer­ence.

“To lose a game is some­thing you al­ways have to ac­cept in football, but this was a hard way to lose it,” Pellerud said. “It was re­ally dis­ap­point­ing for all of us. It feels not good.”

The dif­fer­ence was Nor­way’s in­abil­ity to cap­i­tal­ize on its chances in the first half. The Scan­di­na­vians had three shots on goal off seven di­rected at the net.

Is­abell Herlovsen was in alone in the 11th minute, only to be stopped by a left foot save from Bard­s­ley.

Bronze mis­played the ball in the 39th minute, and the turnover al­lowed Ada Hege­berg to have a wide-open shot to the left of the net, only to be stopped by Bard­s­ley.

“With­out count­ing or be­ing very pre­cise, I think we had six or fan­tas­tic op­por­tu­ni­ties be­fore Eng­land had one,” Pellerud said. “If you don’t cap­i­tal­ize on them, that is go­ing to be a prob­lem.”

Houghton tied the game when she out­jumped two de­fend­ers and from about 6 yards headed in the ball off the far post.

Jill Scott, a 54th-minute sub­sti­tute, then fed a per­fect pass to Bronze, who was alone just atop the penalty area. Bronze punched a hard shot that glanced off a hand of Hjelm­seth and into the net.

Eng­land, which has climbed the rank­ings in two years un­der Samp­son, re­mains in con­tention to earn Europe’s third and fi­nal berth in next year’s women’s tour­na­ment at the Rio Olympics.

Eng­land en­tered 3-11-2 against Nor­way, but was 3-0-1 in the pre­vi­ous four meet­ings dat­ing to 2006. That in­cluded a 1-1 tie in Jan­uary 2014 in Samp­son’s first game as coach.

The 32-year-old took over when Hope Pow­ell was fired af­ter Eng­land went 0-2-1 in the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship.

De­spite the late-af­ter­noon start, the game-time tem­per­a­ture was above 80 and the sun baked the Lands­downe Sta­dium’s ar­ti­fi­cial turf. The con­di­tions were sim­i­lar to Ger­many’s 4-1 win over Swe­den on Satur­day, when the tem­per­a­ture was mea­sured at over 100 on the field.

Near the 25th minute, Swiss ref­eree Es­ther Staubli called for a wa­ter break.

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