FIFAWWC23: Matildas unable to Kerr-tail Hemp heroics as Lionesses roar into final

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England booked their place in the FIFA Women’s World Cup final for the first time ever as the Lionesses battled to a 3-1 victory against co-hosts Australia, Reelradio.com.ng reports.

Lauren Hemp’s second half heroics inspired her nation to a place in the final where they’ll do battle with European rivals Spain.

Australia allowed England plenty of possession in the opening stages as the Matildas aimed to keep things tight in their first-ever WWC semi-final in front of a frenzied 75,000-strong crowd in Sydney.

That back foot approach almost backfired when Alex Greenwood’s piercing through ball into the penalty area found Georgia Stanway, but she could only fire straight at the onrushing Mackenzie Arnold.

The Lionesses continued to dominate possession, but Australia showed their threat on the counter as Hayley Raso’s shot from six yards was deflected wide. With a tournament-high four clean sheets, Australia were seemingly happy to invite pressure again before half time.

The English attack needed something special to break through, and they certainly found that, as Alessia Russo teed up Ella Toone to unleash an unstoppable first-time strike that nestled in the top corner.

Sarina Wiegman’s side were ahead at the break, and after losing in both the 2015 and 2019 Women’s World Cup semi-finals, England seemed determined to avoid another heartbreak.

Lauren Hemp almost doubled the Lionesses’ lead with a 20-yard volley that Arnold tipped behind, but for all the Lionesses’ pressure, they couldn’t build on that lead and were duly punished.

Australia’s all-time leading goalscorer Sam Kerr suddenly produced a moment of magic on her first start of the tournament, with a driving run and 25-yard lob that took a wicked deflection before rising over Mary Earps, dipping under the crossbar and into the net.

Far from inspiring a quick turnaround, England rallied and restored their lead within 10 minutes of conceding. Ellie Carpenter failed to clear a long ball forward, and Hemp seized on the opportunity, poking a low shot past Arnold and putting her side on the brink of history. Inevitably, Australia threw players forward to try and rescue the contest, but that left them exposed, and England capitalised. The heroic Hemp drove forward and slotted in Russo to slide home the third, a killer blow for the Australians.

Despite moments of world class quality from Kerr, Australia were outplayed for large periods and the Matildas’ chances of reaching a first-ever Women World Cup final were dashed by clinical English finishing. Hemp’s coolness under pressure produced two defining moments for a historic England win as the Lionesses became just the sixth nation to reach both a women’s and men’s World Cup final.

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