VANCOUVER (Reuters) - England scored twice in three first-half minutes then held on to beat hosts Canada 2-1 on Saturday and book a spot in the Women’s World Cup semi-finals against Japan.
The hosts had been hoping to secure the semi-final spot against the defending champions on Canada Day, July 1, in Edmonton but instead it was England who moved into the last four of a World Cup for the first time.
England coach Mark Sampson paid tribute to the opposition and fans.
“I have never been in a stadium as loud, as passionate for their team as that was, they couldn’t have pushed us any further we had to really, really dig deep today to get the result we wanted,” he told reporters.
“They’ve shown a desire I have never seen in an England team before to hang on in there and get us through to the next round.”
Without a men’s or women’s World Cup title since 1966, and exasperated by another failure at the men’s U21 European Championships, the “Lionesses” have become the toast of England.
“We’re history makers again, only the third England team to get to a semi-final, we have now joined that 1966 and 1990 club, very, very proud of the whole group,” beamed Sampson.
After conceding just one goal in four matches, Canada surrendered two in three minutes early in the opening half.
England opened the scoring in the 11th minute when Canadian defender Lauren Sesselmann slipped on the ball, leaving Jodie Taylor a clear path to the goal. She made no mistake, whipping a low shot past a diving Erin McLeod.
Three minutes later Lucy Bronze sent a shudder through the capacity crowd 54,027 when her looping header sailed over McLeod’s outstretched hand, deflected off the crossbar and into the net.
Canada pulled one back just before the break when England goalkeeper Karen Bardsley could not handle Ashley Lawrence’s shot and Christine Sinclair, Canada’s all-time leading scorer, was there to pounce on the loose ball and drive it home.
“We hadn’t written the script to be 2-0 down that early,” said Canada coach John Herdman.
”I‘m proud of my girls, they give you everything, it just wasn’t good enough tonight and the dream is over.
“We knew it was going to be a physical contest tonight, you get the English fighting spirit against the Canadian grit.”
Soaking up the energy of the sold-out crowd, Canada pushed forward in the second half but could not unlock England’s defense and test Siobhan Chamberlain, who came on for Bardsley in the 49th minute after the starting goalie had an allergic reaction that caused her eyes to puff up and affect her vision.
Editing by Andrew Both/Peter Rutherford