England 2-1 Colombia: Alessia Russo's goal seals comeback victory

England 2-1 Colombia: Lionesses roar into Women’s World Cup semi-finals after Lauren Hemp and Alessia Russo goals secure a turnaround victory – with hosts Australia up next

  • Colombia opened the scoring as Leicy Santos lobbed England’s Mary Earps
  • Lauren Hemp pulled the Lionesses level with a stroke of luck before half-time
  • Alessia Russo put England ahead with a brilliant finish in the second-half 

It had felt like this England team had been hit from pillar to post at this World Cup. Injuries, suspensions, off-the-pitch rows. When Colombia took the lead in Saturday’s quarter-final tie against the run of play, the Lionesses resembled a boxer being given a countdown in the ring. Could they stand up and go again?

Two players that have been under more pressure than most were the ones who gave a resounding yes. Lauren Hemp and Alessia Russo have carried the goal-scoring burden of this team – and goals have been hard to come by for much of this tournament. 

But the two forwards showed grit, determination and composure to fire England through to a World Cup semi-final against hosts Australia.

Hemp in particular was battered and bruised by full-time, the forward given rough treatment by Colobmia’s physical defence.

The Lionesses had expected a battle and they were given one. Their last 16 game with Nigeria had given them a taste of playing in front of a hostile crowd, but yesterday’s antagonistic atmosphere was on another level. 

England are through to the Women’s World Cup semi-finals after beating Colombia in Sydney

Alessia Russo (bottom middle) scored the winning goal for England to advance to the World Cup semi-finals

Colombia’s players were in tears at full-time and were comforted by England players after the match

Australia is home to nearly 30,000 Colombian students who have been packing out games at this World Cup. Thousands more fans had travelled from South America. As England walked out for kick-off, they stepped into a Colombian cauldron of fire and fury. Supporters roared their national anthem with venom.

There were whistles every time an England player touched the ball. Every pass was met with fierce shouts of ‘Colombia, Colombia’. They celebrated a throw-in in the attacking half as if they had scored a goal.

England could have silenced the crowd in the sixth minute when a loose ball in the box fell first to Hemp, then to Russo, but neither could find the back of the net. Russo’s shot forced Colombia into an early substitution – with defender Carolina Arias unable to continue after blocking the effort with her head.

England had known Colombia would be physical. In the 20th minute Hemp was on the receiving end of a shoulder to the face as she tried to get past Ana Maria Guzman. It was a tackle that would not have looked out of place in a rugby match but no free-kick was given. 

Rachel Daly was Guzman’s next victim, the right back almost pinching her opponent’s face as she shoved her off the ball. Again, no free-kick was given. So, that was how it was going to be?

England were playing the best they had been all tournament, so when Colombia took the lead in the 44th minute, it felt like a sucker punch.

Daly allowed Leicy Santos to cross into the box and her floated delivery sailed over the head of Mary Earps and into the back of the net. The noise from Colombia’s supporters was deafening. England had a decision to make – freeze under the pressure or stand up and fight. They chose the latter.

Their equaliser came in the sixth minute of first half stoppage time as Keira Walsh’s cross into the box was headed down by Lucy Bronze to Russo. The forward could only deflect the ball off Daniela Arias and into the path of Perez. 

England have now set up a World Cup semi-final clash with tournament hosts Australia

Colombia initially took the lead through Leicy Santos’ (left) initial strike in the first-half

Colombia players celebrated emphatically after going ahead but their joy was short-lived

It should have been a straight forward collection for the Colombia goalkeeper but as she slid out, the ball squirmed out of her hands and behind her towards the goal. Russo was blocked off but Hemp pushed through bodies to poke the ball home. England’s bench erupted. 

It was a gift, but they did not care. After everything Sarina Wiegman’s side have faced in this tournament, they were perhaps due a bit of luck at last.

The Lionesses had the momentum as the second half started. Daly saw a header saved by Perez before the goalkeeper clawed away a free-kick shortly after. Then came the moment Russo had been waiting for. Stanway found space outside the box and played a pass to the forward that nut-megged Arias. 

Lauren Hemp (right) pulled England level after scoring on the stroke of half-time

Hemp was delighted after the match as her goal helped England get over the line against Colombia

Russo spun past the defender then fired a superb strike into the bottom left corner. For a striker who has faced criticism for not scoring enough at this tournament, it was a composed and clinical finish. 

Russo scored four goals at the Euros but they were all in games where England were already leading. This, to win a quarter-final tie, is perhaps the most important she has scored in her international career.

Colombia’s players were never going to surrender easily. A long-range effort from Lorena Bedoya nearly caught Earps by surprise but the England goalkeeper did well to tip the ball over the bar.

England manager Sarina Wiegman will have concerns over how many chances Colombia created against England

Colombia continued to push forward but time after time their attacks were repelled by Millie Bright, Jess Carter and Alex Greenwood.

There was one last roar from Colombia’s fans as eight minutes of extra-time were added on, but England held firm.

It may have been tight, but most knockout games at this World Cup have been. This was a huge step up from a mediocre performance against Nigeria but England will have to go up another gear again when they face Australia in Wednesday’s semi-final. 

Wiegman’s players have three days to patch themselves up from yesterday’s bruising encounter and go again. Like all the best fighters, this England team does not know when they are beaten.

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