MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher saved the United States with a penalty stop in the 84th minute to secure a 2-1 win over England in the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
The U.S. is on to the World Cup final after a complete group effort.
Rose Lavelle and Lindsey Horan patrolled the midfield. Alex Morgan and Christen Press gave the England defense fits with their timed runs and finishing.
If there is one truism from this World Cup: The U.S. always scores early.
Right-back Kelly O’Hara dashed to the right end-line and unleashed a feathered cross. Press, who replaced Megan Rapinoe in the team-sheet, met the cross at the back post and headed the U.S. into the lead.
The goal marked the USA’s sixth goal inside the first 15 minutes.
The opening goal was the motivation England needed to enact their original game plan.
English forward Ellen White is nearly perfect from inside the 6-yard box. She clinically beat Naeher after USA’s Abby Dahlkemper was caught ball-watching following Bethany Mead’s cross.
England’s star forward sent a message to the USWNT, and the U.S.’s star forward responded 12 minutes later. The USWNT has not lost a match when Alex Morgan gets on the score sheet.
The streak continued Tuesday as Morgan blew past England’s defense and elevated to connect with Abby Horan’s cross in the 31st minute.
The U.S. saw out the remaining 15 minutes of the first half with ease, but the match was far from over.
The opening minutes in the second half were physical, to say the least. The two sides combined for seven second-half fouls before the hour mark, and Horan received a yellow card.
The action rose when White seemingly leveled the score-line following another deft finish in the 67th minute.
White celebrated with her teammates, but VAR and head official Edina Alves Batista spoiled the ‘tea-party.’
VAR ruled that White was a toenail’s length behind the line of defense, and thus the goal was disallowed.
The drama only increased in the final 20 minutes.
White weaved her way into the box and whiffed on a shot attempt. She immediately signaled to the head official that her run was impeded by U.S. defender Becky Sauerbrunn.
The penalty was not initially given, but Batista spent over two minutes consulting VAR and checking the monitor.
She returned to the pitch and signaled a penalty kick for England, and Sauerbrunn received a yellow card.
England’s captain Stephanie Houghton stepped up to take the penalty and looked calm. She took aim at the bottom corner, but Naeher guessed the correctly and secured the ball.
Naeher’s save is the first time a U.S. goalkeeper (in a Women’s World Cup match) has saved a penalty kick in a non-shootout match.
Manager Jill Ellis instructed her team to drop at least nine players back on defense, and England were unable to find an answer.
The U.S. continued to win fouls and eat time off the clock.
England’s Millie Bright received her second yellow and marching orders in the 86th minute.
The U.S. used their advantage in numbers to see out the seven minutes of added time and punched their ticket for the Women’s World Cup Final.
— By WREG’s Caleb Hilliard