Lionesses celebrate Chloe Kelly's goal, China PR v England, FIFAWWC

Expect the unpredictable seems to be the new mantra for Sarina Wiegman’s side. After a vivacious performance in front of a partisan Adelaide crowd, the Lionesses progressed to the Round of 16 in style with a 6-1 victory over China. A brace from Lauren James and goals from Alessia Russo, Lauren Hemp, Chloe Kelly and Rachel Daly completed the rout. The Chinese pulled a goal back through a controversially awarded penalty that Wang Shuang duly converted.

“I said before the game, we had to do things a little different than we did before,” Wiegman remarked afterwards. “It shows how adaptive we are on the pitch. We want to use the qualities we have now and today it worked really well.”

“I think we are growing into the tournament. Tonight, we had a great performance…We also prevented counterattacks. We played well and also China didn’t press all the time. They stayed in their shape and weren’t able to.”

 

Lionesses v China PR, FIFAWWC

 

The knee injury to Keira Walsh had forced the England manager’s hand to come up with something a bit different. With no natural replacement to the Walsh role, Wiegman had to decide whether to try and fit a square peg into a round hole or adapt her formation to suit the abilities of the player. She opted for the later, despite being a manger who has traditionally rarely changed her personnel during major tournaments. Jess Carter and Lauren Hemp returned to the starting XI while Katie Zelem made her major tournament debut as the Lionesses ended up operating in a 3-4-1-2 formation with Russo and Hemp playing off each other up front and James taking up a free role in behind.

From the first whistle, the enjoyment shone through in the dynamism and fluidity of the forward-minded players. With Hemp alongside her, Russo was able to drop in or push forward as she pleased, allowing her to affect play more than she has done recently as the number nine. James had the space to maraud between China’s defensive and midfield lines, putting in another eye-catching Player of the Match performance, while England’s wingbacks, offensive in nature, were able to push forward and support the attack.

 

“She feels good, you can tell. She did special things today…She flows over the pitch.”

Sarina Wiegman on Lauren James

 

The opener came after just four minutes with Russo’s new found freedom immediately paying off. Dropping deep, she connected the play before feeding Hemp down the left. The cross in was played on by James for the England forward, now in the box, to turn home with an instinctive finish.

The Lionesses’ did not let their foot off the gas, clearly relishing the situation. Both full backs were at times the highest players on the pitch, making a menace of themselves in the box whenever deliveries came in. With almost half an hour on the clock, they doubled their lead. Millie Bright, looking back to her best when supported in a defensive trio, cut in ahead of Wu Chengshu to maraud forward. She found the influential James who sliced through the Chinese backline. Her pass was pinpoint for Hemp to break onto and turn past Zhu Yu.

With two assists already registered, James decided to get in on the scoring action herself. For some bewildering reason, China left the young star completely unmarked on the edge of the box as England set up for a free kick. Alex Greenwood found her, and she caressed the ball home. She should have had another before the break with a sumptuous strike but VAR controversially ruled Lucy Bronze offside in the build-up.

 

Lauren James scores Lionesses' 4th goal, England v China PR, FIFAWWC

 

China and Shui Qingxia looked shell-shocked heading in at half-time with the manager staying out on the pitch to consider her options. They did improve after the break, forcing Mary Earps into her first real stop of the night. Wu Chengshu was afforded space from distance, but the keeper made a diving stop to her right-hand side.

It was a move that enabled the penalty from which China were able to pull a goal back when Bronze was adjudged to have handled off the subsequent corner. Wang Shuang stepped up to fire home the first goal England had conceded this tournament.

As the game became a bit helter-skelter, Wiegman’s side’s experience came into play as they took the heat out of the game with a spell of possession. It worked wonders and they were soon able to restore their deficit with quite possibly the goal of the evening. Jess Carter, breaking from defence, set her foot on the ball before curling it delightfully towards the back post. The surging James met it on the run, deftly opened her foot before volleying it home.

Two more in the final quarter ensured victory for England. Chloe Kelly made her mark when James’ pass caused Zhu to rush out and miss. The substitute was able to break onto the loose ball and turn it home. The sixth goal came from Rachel Daly, volleying home at the back post to ensure she added her name to the scoresheet.

It was a statement result from the Lionesses after all the chatter in the build-up and five different goalscorers breathing confidence into the team. As they whistle blew, Wiegman’s side celebrated knowing they had secured progression to the knockouts and set up a date with Nigeria in Brisbane on Monday.

 

England (3-4-1-2): Mary Earps; Jess Carter, Millie Bright, Alex Greenwood; Lucy Bronze, Georgia Stanway, Katie Zelem, Rachel Daly; Lauren James; Alessia Russo, Lauren Hemp

Subs: Niamh Charles, Ella Toone, Jordan Nobbs, Hannah Hampton, Lotte Wubben-Moy, Esme Morgan, Laura Coombs, Chloe Kelly, Bethany England, Ellie Roebuck, Katie Robinson

 

China PR (4-4-2): Zhu Yu; Li Mengwen, Wang Shanshan, Yao Wei, Chen Qiaozhu; Wu Chengshu, Yao Lingwei, Yang Lina, Zhang Linyan; Lou Jiahui, Wang Shuang

Subs: Dou Jiaxing, Wang Linlin, Wu Haiyan, Zhang Xin, Shen Mengyu, Xu Huan, Tang Jiali, Xiao Yuyi, Gu Yasha, Pan Hongyan, Gao Chen

 

Referee: Casey Reibelt

 

Attendance: 13,497

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