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England labour to opening win over Haiti thanks to Georgia Stanway penalty

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 22 Jul 2023

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Georgia Stanway’s retaken first-half penalty was enough to earn England a nervy 1-0 victory over World Cup debutants Haiti in their Group D opener at Brisbane Stadium.

This was not the decisive victory most had predicted for the European champions and world’s number-four side against a team 49 places below them in the FIFA rankings.

Haiti came close to levelling more than once, including a late second-half chance denied at the last by Mary Earps’ outstretched foot.

While the Lionesses ultimately walked away with all three points, it was an underwhelming performance that will leave boss Sarina Wiegman with plenty of questions ahead of Friday’s meeting with Denmark.

England fans were out in full force ahead of kick-off in the Queensland capital, where ‘Football’s Coming Home’ could be heard from a riverside rally and ex-Arsenal forward Ian Wright posed in a Lotte Wubben-Moy shirt beneath Story Bridge.

For so much of the build-up of this tournament, the conversation around the Lionesses centred on their ongoing dispute with the Football Association over bonus payments and other commercial issues.

On a clear Thursday night, England wanted their football to do the talking, yet it was Haiti who enjoyed the first spell of attack, winning an early corner before Chloe Kelly, the hero in last summer’s Euro 2022 final, tested Haiti goalkeeper Kerly Theus with a curled effort.

One of the biggest dilemmas for Wiegman ahead of this tournament was who she would entrust as her number nine and – for this opener at least – it was Alessia Russo who led the England attack and rolled an early effort at Theus.

England fans, who by the noise inside the stadium comprised the majority of those in attendance, felt their hearts leap to their throats when Roselord Borgella broke free and was one-on-one with Earps but rolled her effort past the far post.

The Lionesses thought they had won a least a penalty when Dayana Pierre-Louis clattered into Kelly on the byline and appeared to clip her knee with a stud, but the Haitian midfielder got away with just a yellow card after it was determined – following a lengthy VAR check – that Russo had committed a foul in the build-up.

Soon after that decision, however, Batcheba Louis was punished for a handball and Stanway stepped up to the spot.

Theus sparked a jubilant Haitian celebration when she saved Stanway’s first effort, but VAR again intervened and Venezuelan referee Emikar Calderas ruled the keeper had encroached and the penalty was retaken.

Stanway did not make the same mistake twice as she fired low into the left corner for what felt like an uneasy lead at the end of a stop-start first half.

Melchie Dumornay, the 19-year-old midfielder bound for Lyon after this tournament, forced Earps into a leaping save shortly after the restart before Russo was twice denied in quick succession.

Chelsea’s Lauren James made her World Cup debut after replacing Hemp, just ahead of another nervy moment for England when Dumornay found Haiti skipper Nerilia Mondesir in plenty of space before Jess Carter recovered the ball.

James tried to get something started by delivering a cross to Russo, who came close but saw her attempt tipped over the crossbar, before Bright skied an effort and Theus picked crosses from Alex Greenwood and James out of the air.

On came Rachel Daly for Russo in the 76th minute as Haiti pushed for an equaliser, which nearly came via Roseline Eloissaint but for the outstretched foot of Earps to deny the substitute from 18 yards out.

Carter’s well-timed challenge broke up another Haiti run into the Lionesses’ final third, with Earps able to punch away the resulting corner.

The chances came for the Lionesses to double their advantage but never the finishing touch as England finished with the result, but probably not the performance, they wanted.

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