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England’s Georgia Stanway celebrates scoring against Haiti.
But World Cup matches weren’t won on paper, as the Caribbean nation matched the Lionesses almost every step of the way in the two teams’ opener, only eventually losing 1-0 after Georgia Stanaway scored from the penalty spot.
Several fine saves from Haitian goalkeeper Curley Theus made the score just one goal short, although England did muster 19 shots on target, 10 of them on target.
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Alicia Russo from England clashes with Curly Theus from Haiti.
Late on, Haiti had a chance to equalise, but two great saves in quick succession from English goalkeeper Mary Irbes kept her side ahead, with the Lionesses eventually scraping to a nasty victory.
“They challenged us,” England’s top scorer Stanaway told ITV afterwards.
“They were very dangerous on the counter-attack, so we’ll work on that in training this week. Mari made a great save and everyone played their part. Moments like this are why she’s such a great goalkeeper. The most important thing is that we got three points.”
Haiti defied expectations from the opening exchanges, engineering the most promising early chance of the match when Rosellord Borgella raced through the England defense before deflecting her effort wide of the goal.
England continued to press, seeing a possible penalty ruled out by the VAR and forcing the first of a valiant save from Theus.
In the 25th minute, however, a VAR check resulted in a penalty kick for England after a Haitian handball into the penalty area. Initially, Stanaway’s penalty attempt was spectacularly saved by Theus, but when it was ruled that the Haitian goalkeeper had moved forward off her line, the penalty was recovered and Stanaway did not miss getting her second chance.
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Georgia Stanaway’s penalty proved the difference between the two teams.
“I was just focused on the ball and the situation,” added Stanaway.
“The first penalty was a very nice save, so credit to that but obviously it was off the line. I was inclined to change sides, but you have to trust your strategy. There is a process I command and I stick to it.”
Despite taking an early lead, England could not capitalize on the Haiti defense and struggled to break it down, while only Erbes’ key tackles at the other end prevented Haiti equalizing.
“It was a very tough game, and I’m very happy with the three points,” England coach Sarina Wegman told ITV. It was very unexpected, and very transitional. This is what they showed and we struggled with that. We created chances but lost the ball and then they were gone. That was hard for us.
“We want to finish our chances. We did it with a penalty kick, which was good because winning is the most important thing.”
Meanwhile, in the other Group D opener, Denmark defeated China 1–0, taking a sensational lead in the last minute of regulation time when substitute Amalie Vangsgaard – after being on the pitch less than five minutes – headed in from Pernell Harder’s corner.
There was still time for some late drama in the six minutes of extra time as China nearly equalized, but the ball bounced wide of the woods and raced clear. However, the goal did not count, with several Chinese players being found offside.
The closing minutes changed the look of a match that was due to end in a goalless draw, as both sides struggled to find a decisive advantage.
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