Lionesses begin World Cup campaign with unconvincing victory

England 1-0 Haiti: Lionesses begin Women’s World Cup campaign with an unconvincing win as Georgia Stanway re-taken first-half penalty proves the difference for the European champions

  • England started their Women’s World Cup campaign with a victory on Saturday 
  • The Lionesses triumphed 1-0 over Haiti in a closely contested Group D clash 
  • Georgia Stanway’s re-taken penalty was enough to separate the two sides 

This was not the statement win that England had wanted. It was not the powerful performance many had been expecting. 

It was a narrow, nervy and tightly contested victory against a Haiti side ranked 49 places below them. But it was a win and that is what matters.

Opening World Cup games, for England at least, rarely bring big scorelines. It was a familiar story in 2019 when Phil Neville’s team only just beat Scotland 2-1.

It did not help that the Lionesses came into this match off the back of three games without a goal. 

Haiti’s manager Nicolas Delepine had suggested they ‘had a problem with finishing’ and when Georgia Stanway’s 28th minute penalty was saved by his 5ft4in goalkeeper Kerly Theus, there was concern that he maybe had a point.

Georgia Stanway (left) scored the only goal in England’s 1-0 win over Haiti on Saturday

The England No. 8 stepped up to the spot – after missing her first attempt before the referee ordered for it to be re-taken – and slotted the ball home

It was an unconvincing win for the Lionesses, who were held to a close encounter by Haiti

Sarina Wiegman would’ve hoped from a stronger showing from her side in their opening match

Thankfully for England, and Stanway, Theus had crept off her line and the spot-kick was re-taken – with the midfielder converting at the second attempt. England, just about, managed to see out the second half.


England (4-3-3): Earps, Bronze, Bright, Carter, Greenwood, Walsh, Stanway, Kelly, Toone, Hemp (James 61), Russo (Daly 76)

Subs not used: Roebuck, Hampton, Charles, Nobbs, Wubben-Moy, Morgan, Coombs, England, Zelem, Robinson

Booked: Stanway, Hemp

Goals: Stanway 29

Manager: Sarina Wiegman

Haiti (4-3-3): Theus, Petit-Frere, Limage (Mathurin 31), Joseph, Louis (D Joseph 90+2), Jeudy, D. Pierre-Louis, Dumornay, Louis, Borgella, Mondesir

Subs not used: Surpris, Moryl, Etienne, Eloissaint, Ambroise, Pierre-Jerome, Ganthier, Mathurin, Larco, S Joseph, F Joseph, E Joseph

Booked: D Pierre-Louis

Goals: None

Manager: Nicolas Delepine

Referee: Emikar Calderas

Attendance: 44,369

‘We played a very hard game,’ England boss Sarina Wiegman admitted. ‘We had a lot of possession, but they were very quick. We created chances, but we lost the ball in moments we weren’t expecting it.’

Haiti were dangerous on the counter-attack, with Melchie Durmonay pulling the strings in midfield. What they lacked was a clinical presence up front, but they showed enough here that they could cause Denmark and China problems in their remaining two games.

Wiegman’s biggest selection dilemma was who to start up front – Alessia Russo or Rachel Daly. She went with Russo, but it was a frustrating night for the Arsenal forward. England had 21 shots with 11 on target but have now gone four games without a goal from open play.

Asked what her team were missing in attack, Wiegman said: ‘I would say ruthlessness.

‘Sometimes the connections with the cross, the timing of the cross, where the cross actually ends in the penalty box, then the connection in front of the goal.

‘We are very close a couple of times to scoring a goal but their defence was tough too. We need to be finishing our chances and a little better in our possesion game, a little faster. We [will] keep trying and working on it’

England were not convincing in defence either, with returning captain Millie Bright in particular looking rusty. The Lionesses’ captain was starting her first competitive game in four months after undergoing knee surgery and struggled with the pace of the game.

In the first minute she played a pass straight to the feet of Haiti’s captain Nerilia Mondesir, who broke forward to force a corner – which England only just about dealt with. 

Bright was then caught out again when Roselord Borgella ran in behind, but the winger could only fire wide from a tight angle. Suddenly the absence of England’s injured Euros stars – Leah Williamson, Beth Mead and Fran Kirby, felt pivotal.

Stanway celebrated her goal in-front of the packed out crowd in the Suncorp Stadium

The Lionesses’ passing was sloppy but they eventually settled and it looked as if they were going to be awarded a penalty in the 18th minute after replays showed Dayana Pierre-Louis had raked her studs down Chloe Kelly’s leg. 

Referee Emikar Calderas went to the monitor but decided Russo had committed a foul in the build-up. Pierre-Louis was booked for her tackle on Kelly, though in truth she was lucky not to have been sent off. 

But the VAR drama was far from over. An England corner was swung to the back-post and Batcheba Louis, for reasons only she will know, jumped with both hands in the air – as if she was trying to catch the cross. 

The ball skimmed her fingertips and this time the referee pointed to the spot after a VAR review. Six of the seven games prior to England’s had seen a penalty awarded – but only two takers had scored. 

Stanway had never missed from the spot at international level but as the midfielder stepped up, Theus sprung to her right to push the ball round the post. Haiti’s celebrations were cut short when replays showed Theus had clearly come off her line. 

A retake was ordered and Stanway stepped up again. She went the same way but this time hard and low. With Theus rooted to the spot, the net bulged. England had lift off, but they continued to look vulnerable.

Dumornay nearly found an equaliser at the start of the second half. Her fierce long-range shot was tipped into the air by Mary Earps before the ball was cleared.

Russo then had two opportunities to double England’s lead but both efforts were saved by Theus. The goalkeeper continued to frustrate the forward, leaping brilliantly to tip her header over the bar just past the hour mark.

Theus watched on Stanway prepared to take a second-spot kick in just a matter of minutes

The result sees England go top of Group D, prior to China and Denmark’s clash later today

A huge moment came in the 80th minute when Mondesir cut open the England defence to put Roseline Eloissaint through on goal, but Earps stuck out a foot to make a huge save.

There was visible relief on Wiegman’s face when the final whistle was blown. It was not convincing, but neither was the Lionesses’ victory over Austria in their first game of the Euros last year. 

That narrow 1-0 win was followed up with an unexpected 8-0 thrashing over Norway. Many had thought that would be their hardest game in the group and the same is expected for the second match against Denmark next week. 

A familiar song played over the speakers at the full-time, Sweet Caroline – the theme tune of England’s Euros triumph. If they want to hear that song played after the final in Sydney on August 19, they have work to do.

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