England 2 Norway 1. England Women won their first ever knockout match at a World Cup as they beat Norway 2-1, thanks to a sensational long-range strike from full-back Lucy Bronze. The Lionesses had to come from behind to beat the fancied Norwegian side and the victory sets up a quarter-final showdown against tournament hosts, Canada.
But the triumph was not free from controversy as England were jeered in the closing stages as they deliberately ran the ball towards the corner flag to waste time, a common tactic in the men's game, but out of keeping with the less cynical reputation of the women's game.
That aside it was a night to remember for England. Coach Mark Sampson was ebullient afterwards. "We showed resilience and character, and the girls from the substitutes' bench were superb," he said. "The team and the entire squad have delivered for their country. They've made history. We've seen in the tournament it's hard to come from behind, but we've done that."
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Goalkeeper Karen Bardsley kept England in the tie with a series of first-half saves, but England fell behind when Solveig Gulbrandsen headed home a near-post corner after 54 minutes.
Minutes later England skipper Steph Houghton equalised, also with a header from a corner. But the goal that settled the match was a screamer, with full-back Lucy Bronze lashing home from 25 yards after some clever passing on the edge of the box.
With the bulk of the possession in the final stages England kept the ball in their opponents' half, frequently heading for the corner flags.
"As the clock approached 90 minutes, England, unsurprisingly, began to try to run the clock down, and the negativity – or perhaps professionalism – was met with hoots of derision from the crowd," reports The Times.
It was a tactic that would have jarred with many fans of women's football. Earlier in the tournament The Guardian hailed a tournament which "has so far proved refreshingly free of diving, cheating, time wasting, referee haranguing, injury feigning and much of the gamesmanship that regular watchers of the men's game take, reluctantly, for granted".
But England appeared unconcerned and there were scenes of unbridled joy at the final whistle.
"The result was vindication... for the head coach Mark Sampson, who had switched personnel and formations throughout the group stage and did so again, making four changes from the team that had beaten Colombia in the last of the group fixtures and reverting to the 4-1-4-1 formation that lost 1-0 to France," reports the Daily Telegraph.
Norwegian manager Even Pellerud admitted that Sampson had been "very clever tactically".
Described by the Telegraph as "the youngest and most inexperienced coach" in the tournament, Sampson must now prepare to face the hosts early on Sunday morning, UK time.
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