England survive red card to edge past Nigeria at Women's World Cup

James sent off but Kelly holds nerve to clinch shoot-out victory

England's Chloe Kelly, left, and Alex Greenwood celebrate victory over Nigeria at the Women's World Cup. PA
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Substitute Chloe Kelly added another memorable moment to her England collection when her spot-kick sent the 10-woman Lionesses past Nigeria following a dramatic shoot-out at the Women's World Cup.

The last 16 tie had ended 0-0 after 120 grueling minutes in Brisbane, with Nigeria the better team and England having to dig deep just to stay in the game after Lauren James was sent off for an 87th minute stamp on Michelle Alozie. James, a star of the tournament so far, could now miss the remainder of England's campaign.

Kelly, who struck the winning goal in the Women's Euro 2022 final, praised the team's character and said that their ability, mixed with grit and determination, could take them all the way. The Lionesses will face either Colombia or Jamaica in the quarter-finals on Saturday.

"It's amazing, anything that's thrown at us we show what we're capable of," said Kelly, the 25-year-old Manchester City striker.

"We dig deep as a group and we believe in our ability. We believe in what we're told to do. We've been practicing a lot and it's working.

"[Before the penalty] For me I'm thinking going to score, once I win that mental battle I'm good.

"It's the team, this team is special. We did it in the Euros, we did it in the Finalissima, we keep pushing forward and there's more to come from this team."

England were far from their best and were lucky not to exit the tournament in 90 minutes.

Georgia Stanway’s stumble led to Nigeria's first real chance as Uchenna Kanu directed a header at the England goal which was blocked by a scrambling Millie Bright.

Former England youth international Ashleigh Plumptre came within inches of an opener when her attempt clipped the underside of the crossbar and it took a brilliant save by Mary Earps to keep the ball out.

The Lionesses were then initially awarded a penalty when Rasheedat Ajibade appeared to shove Daly inside the area but the decision was reversed after a VAR review.

Nigeria continued to enjoy the upper hand after the break with Kanu again going close to an opener.

And things went from bad to worse for Sarina Wiegman’s side when another call to the monitor ruled James had deliberately stamped on Alozie.

Earps kept the Lionesses in it through a one-sided extra 30 minutes, but ultimately a shoot-out was needed to separate the teams.

Stanway missed England's first kick but was relieved to see Desire Oparanozie and then Alozie miss the target.

Alex Greenwood and Christy Ucheibe both converted and so it was up to Kelly, who, with another significant contribution on the global stage, fired England through.

Updated: August 07, 2023, 11:50 AM