Alyssa Naeher saved a penalty and VAR overturned another would-be equalizer and the United States held on to beat England 2-1 and advance to a third straight Women’s World Cup final.
As they’ve done all tournament, the Americans opened the scoring early with a goal inside 12 minutes for the fifth straight game.
Christen Press, replacing the injured Megan Rapinoe in the starting lineup, got on the end of a Kelley O’Hara cross — following a clever dummy by Rose Lavelle — and headed home the opener in the 10th minute.
The goal was the first conceded by the Lionesses since their first game in the group stage against Scotland but it didn’t take long for them to respond through their star striker Ellen White. Beth Mead delivered a pinpoint cross into the six and White delivered her sixth goal of the tournament.
After threatening on a number of attacks through some brilliant midfield play from Lavelle, the Americans retook the lead in the 31st minute on a sublime ball sent into the box from Lindsey Horan that Alex Morgan headed home. The goal was her sixth of the tournament but her first since she had five in the 13-0 win over Thailand to start the campaign and gave her the lead in the golden boot race with six goals and three assists. She celebrated by mimicking drinking a cup of tea.
Two minutes later Naeher made a finger tip save on a well taken shot from distance by Keira Walsh.
Where the story of the first half was goals, the story of the second half was VAR. Video review came into play in the 67th minute after England appeared to have equalized on a flick from Jill Scott to White, but the goal was waved off for offsides. It came into play again when a penalty was called against the U.S.
That set up Naeher for a game-saving penalty kick when she guessed right on Steph Houghton’s weak spot kick. England’s rally was dealt another blow when Millie Bright was sent off with a second yellow and the Americans held on through seven minutes of stoppage time to seal the victory.
The U.S. will look to repeat as champions and win a fourth World Cup in the final in Lyon on Sunday at 11 a.m. ET against the winner of tomorrow’s semifinal between the Netherlands and Sweden.