FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023: England 1 – 0 Haiti. England produced a lacklustre performance against tournament debutants Haiti in their opening match of the Women’s World Cup but held on for a narrow victory in Brisbane.
Georgia Stanway’s pinpoint re-taken penalty gave England victory despite an underwhelming performance by the Lionesses.
The midfielder kept her cool after the Video Assistant Referee adjudged Haiti goalkeeper Kerly Theus had stepped off her line too early as she saved her first attempt.
Much like their display in the opening match against Austria in Euro 2022, which England went on to win, Sarina Wiegman’s side looked short of creativity and sharpness.
Haiti, ranked 53rd in the world, were dangerous in attack – especially hugely impressive teenager Melchie Dumornay, who was the most effective player on the pitch.
The 19-year-old was involved in Haiti’s biggest chances as England were heavily tested in defence, with captain Millie Bright struggling at times on her first appearance since March following knee surgery.
Striker Alessia Russo, given the nod ahead of Women’s Super League Golden Boot winner Rachel Daly, was also denied by Haiti goalkeeper Theus on numerous occasions in each half.
While England had opportunities to extend their lead in the second half, their goalkeeper Mary Earps pulled off a brilliant save to push away Roseline Eloissaint’s strike from close range in what was one of the biggest chances of the match.
The Lionesses, who have lost just once in 33 games under Wiegman, take on Denmark in their second Group D match on Friday.
England came to Australia having failed to score against Portugal and Australia in their most recent matches and they did little to create momentum against Haiti.
The stadium was filled with English support, including plenty of ex-pats living in Brisbane among the 44,000 in attendance, but Haiti fully entertained those cheering on their side.
It was a stop-start opening half as VAR was called into action a few times – firstly to deny England a penalty after a foul by Russo in the box then later awarding them one for handball by Batcheba Louis.
Dayana Pierre-Louis was perhaps fortunate not to receive a red card when her studs dragged down Chloe Kelly’s shin in the first half. That challenge resulted in a booking for the Haiti defender but VAR ruled out a penalty because of Russo’s foul in the build-up.
Stanway gave the European champions the goal they craved from the penalty spot when Louis’ inexplicable decision to raise both hands prevented Lucy Bronze getting on the end of a cross.
But hopes of England finding more of a spark in the second half did not materialise and it was Haiti instead who posed a greater threat even when Wiegman introduced her wildcards Lauren James and Daly.
There was a subdued response by England’s players at full-time, with Wiegman and Barcelona midfielder Keira Walsh deep in conversation as ‘Sweet Caroline’ was sung by fans in the stands.
While England’s performance will need to improve if they are to advance deep into the tournament, Haiti’s opening effort will fill them with confidence as they look to cause an upset in Group D.
Teenager Dumornay showed why one of Europe’s biggest clubs, Lyon, fought off competition for her signature as she dribbled past defenders, tested goalkeeper Earps with a long-range curling strike and played without fear on the game’s biggest stage.
She had five touches in the opposition box – only Kelly and Russo had more – and the crowd in Brisbane rose with excitement whenever she was in possession.
It gave England plenty of food for thought in defence as Lucy Bronze’s attacking urges left gaps in the right-back position, Bright’s lack of match sharpness was evident and England’s midfielders were often on the back foot.
However, just as they did last year at Euro 2022, they did enough to secure three points and a first step to qualifying from their group.
The squad might well remember how they went on to thrash Norway 8-0 in their second match at last year’s major tournament after a similarly lacklustre opening.
source – BBC