BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — England won without star Lauren James, who was ejected with a red card, to beat Nigeria on penalty kicks Monday and advance to the quarterfinals at the Women’s World Cup.
The round of 16 match ended 0-0 after regulation and extra time, giving Nigeria a chance to win a knockout match at the Women’s World Cup for the first time in nine trips to the global tournament.
But European champion England won the shootout 4-2 when substitute forward Chloe Kelly converted the last kick.
England became the title favorite after the two-time reigning champion U.S. team was eliminated Sunday in a penalty shootout loss to Sweden. But England struggled to create opportunities against Nigeria’s defense.
Then with five minutes remaining in regulation, England star forward James was ejected after a VAR review on her violent tackle of a Nigeria defender.
She initially was given a yellow card by referee Melissa Borjas after falling on top of Michelle Alozie and stepping on her with her studs as James climbed off Alozie. The crowd groaned as slow-motion replays on the stadium screens showed the play, and, after a delay of several minutes, the yellow card was replaced with a red card.
British media instantly reacted by comparing it with David Beckham’s red card for kicking out at Argentina’s Diego Simeone at the 1998 World Cup in France. The red card means James will miss at least one game, and possibly the rest of the tournament.
The Lionesses immediately had to change formation in the 10-on-11 scenario, bringing on Kelly to play a solo role up front.
Alozie was clear eight minutes into stoppage time but couldn’t control a left-foot shot from seven yards and skewed it wide of the post.
Veteran forward Asisat Oshoala forced a save from England goalkeeper Mary Earps when she spun and fired a left-foot shot minutes from the end of extra time.
After narrowly escaping with a win, England will meet Colombia or Jamaica in Sydney next Saturday in the quarterfinals.
“It’s amazing. Anything that’s thrown at us. We’ve shown what we’re capable of,” Kelly said in a post-match TV interview. “We dig deep as a group and we believe in our ability. This team is special. We keep pushing forward — there’s more to come from this special.”
Nigeria coach Randy Waldrum, an American and coach of the University of Pittsburgh’s women’s team. praised Nigeria for going wire-to-wire with one of the best teams in the world.
“I’m so proud of them, to come in and play like we did tonight,” Waldrum said. “We had every opportunity to get it done. Unfortunately, we couldn’t quite get it done. We had the best chances, we hit the crossbar twice. When it gets to penalties, its anyone’s game.”
Uchenna Kanu threatened with two headers in the second half, one two minutes after the break that went just over the crossbar and another in the 72nd when she leaped to meet a corner kick but nudged back past the near post.
Rachel Daly’s powerful header as she ran into the box to meet a corner in the 75th minute was blocked by Chiamaka Nnadozie.
It was scoreless at halftime despite both teams creating opportunities and England having a penalty awarded but overturned on a VAR review.
England had scored in the first half of its previous eight World Cup games, but wasn’t able to beat Nigeria captain Nnadozie with two shots on target.
Nigeria, the first African team to advance unbeaten from the group and aiming for its first win in the knockout stage, had eight shots in the first half and created the better chances.
In the 17th, Ashleigh Plumptre smashed a running left-foot strike into the crossbar from the top of the area and, after it rebounded into play, her right-foot shot forced a diving save from England keeper Mary Earps.
A half-hour in, referee Borjas awarded a penalty to England when forward Daly appeared to be bumped to the ground in the area by blue-haired defender Rasheedat Ajibade, but it was overturned on VAR and brought a booming roar from the 49,461-strong crowd.
Star forward Asisat Oshoala went on as a substitute as the hour approached as a replacement for Ifeoma Onumonu, with Nigeria aiming to reproduce the surge in attack her entry generated into the upset over co-host Australia 3-2 in the group stage. It generated more intensity, but no goals.
Nigeria had troubled the higher-ranked teams throughout the tournament after opening with a 0-0 draw against Olympic champion Canada, the wi over Australia and the 0-0 draw against Ireland.
England advanced atop Group D, after struggling to a 1-0 opener against Haiti and edging Denmark by the same margin, the Lionesses unloaded with James scoring twice in a 6-1 win over China in a pool finale that drew a TV audience exceeding 53 million in China.
Losing James for at least one game will be another test of England’s depth after pre-tournament injuries to key players.
Beth Mead, who won the Golden Boot at the 2022 Euros, injured an ACL injury when playing for Arsenal in December. Leah Williamson, also playing for Arsenal, tore an ACL in April, and Fran Kirby is also missing from the Women’s World Cup roster because of an injured knee.
More AP Women’s World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/fifa-womens-world-cup