USA into WC final as Houghton penalty miss costs England dear
Paris: Alex Morgan scored what proved to be the winner but hailed goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher after her late penalty save from Steph Houghton allowed holders the United States to claim a dramatic 2-1 victory over England in their women's World Cup semi-final on Tuesday.
On her 30th birthday, USA co-captain Morgan headed home her sixth goal of the World Cup just after the half-hour mark in this last-four showdown to put her team back in front after Ellen White had cancelled out Christen Press's early opener.
But after an open first 45 minutes, the second half was dominated by more VAR controversy, with England having another White goal disallowed for the tightest of offside calls following a review by the Brazilian referee.
Phil Neville's team later benefited from Edina Alves Batista's decision to award them a spot-kick when Becky Sauerbrunn made the slightest of contact with White in the box, yet Houghton's 84th-minute kick was stopped by Naeher diving low to her right.
England finished with 10 players after Millie Bright was sent off for a second yellow card late on, and the USA held out to reach the final, despite being without the injured Megan Rapinoe.
"Alyssa Naeher, she should be the player of the match today. She saved our butts today," said Morgan.
They will now go on to face Sweden or the Netherlands in Sunday's final, as they aim to win the trophy for the fourth time in eight editions. It is their third straight final, and they will hope to have Rapinoe back in time.
"Megan's got a slight strain to her hamstring so wasn't available today," said US coach Jill Ellis. "I feel we have a really good deep bench, so I called upon other players and I think they did a fantastic job."
It is another bitterly disappointing way for England to lose, as they go out of a third consecutive major tournament in the semi-finals. Their players cut dejected figures on the pitch at full-time.
"Football can be cruel. We have had a fantastic ride. When we got the penalty I turned to my bench and said 'we were going to win it,' but
it wasn't to be," Neville told