James stars as England smash China for six

China Women v England Women – FIFA Women’s World Cup -Hindmarsh Stadium, Adelaide – Tuesday, August 

China Women 1-6 England Women

Chelsea’s Lauren James produced a sensational individual performance to inspire England to a crushing 6-1 victory over China at the Hindmarsh Stadium in Adelaide. It was a display certainly befitting their status as both European champions and one of the favourites to win the World Cup and it was James, the match-winner against Denmark on Friday, who once again shone brightly with two goals and three assists as the Lionesses booked their place in the final six

teen of the tournament – with their third win in three to top the group.  

Needing only to avoid defeat to qualify for the quarter-finals, England got off to a flying start taking the lead in only the fourth minute when Millie Bright’s pass from inside her own half found Alessia Russo to play the ball through on the left to Lauren Hemp. With the Chinese defence failing to deal with Hemp’s cross, the loose ball fell to Russo to drill the ball home past Zhu Yu to put England 1-0 up.

The Lionesses came close to doubling their lead on the quarter of an hour mark when Russo’s cross into the middle-found Hemp, only for an excellent last-ditch sliding tackle by Yao Lingwei to dispossess and deny the Manchester City striker time to get her shot in.

With the Chinese failing to cope with the physicality of the game and being totally outplayed by England, it came as no surprise when in the twenty-sixth minute the Lionesses went 2-0 up after James showed great vision to play a slick pass through the Chinese defence for the ever dangerous Hemp to run on, take a touch and slot the ball past the keeper into the bottom left-hand corner of the net.  

The Lionesses made it 3-0 just minutes before the game when after Lucy Bronze was brought down on the right-hand side – from the resultant free-kick Alex Greenwood hit a perfectly weighted pass across the area to the inexplicably unmarked James to fire home from outside the box with Zhu Yu once again well beaten.

China went close in stoppage time when Wu Chengshu just failed to get on the end of Li Mengwen’s cross, for what was undoubtedly their best moment of the first half, however, England had the ball in the net once more minutes later when after Bronze slid the ball back for James to curl the ball into the net from twenty yards out – only for the goal to be disallowed by VAR with Bronze having been adjudged as being offside earlier in the move.

Wu Chengshu tested Mary Earps with what was China’s first shot on target just after the break, only for the Manchester United stopper to get down well to her right to push the dipping effort wide of the post – this served to inspire the Chinese as they pressed forward with renewed vigour looking to try to get back into the game and shortly after, following a VAR review, they were awarded a penalty when after a scramble in the English goalmouth, the ball struck Bronze’s outstretched arm and referee Casey Riebelt pointed to the spot.  

Wang Shuang, who also netted in the 1-0 win over Haiti, stroked her kick down the middle to become the first player to score past Earps in the tournament and with the Steel Roses looking like a totally different side in the second half, Yang Lina’s twenty-five-yard strike just after the hour mark was just inches over Earps’ crossbar.

However, any hopes of a Chinese comeback were quickly extinguished as James made it 4-1 in the sixty-fifth minute when after controlling Jess Carter’s flighted ball to the far post, first time, she showed superb technique to volley home past Zhu Yu into the right-hand corner for her second goal of the night. 

With the game obviously won, Sarina Wiegman replaced Hemp, Bronze and Russo in the seventy-second minute to give Chloe Kelly, Bethany England and Niamh Charles game time and it was Kelly, England’s match-winner in the 2022 Euro Final win over Germany, who netted the Lionesses fifth after keeper Zhu Yu dashed out of her penalty area having misjudging the bounce of James’s pass to leave the Manchester City striker to tap the ball into an empty net.

With James leaving the field to a standing ovation nine minutes before the end, to be replaced by Ella Toone, the Lionesses made it 6-1 when Rachel Daly volleyed home at the far post after England’s shot rebounded off a Chinese defender for the prolific Aston Villa utility player to round off the evening in style. 

England’s 6-1 victory equalled their record win at a Women’s World Cup having beaten Argentina by the same scoreline in the group stages in China in 2007.

Sarina Wiegman spoke to www.skysports.com following the game: “I’m very delighted, it shows how adaptive this team is and I think they are enjoying themselves on the pitch.

“[Lauren James] feels good, you can tell. She did special things today. Unfortunately, that one was cancelled but she flows up the pitch.

“I think we expected from China that they will press because they have to win to go through. We just stayed in shape, they expected us to play this way and they didn’t find a solution.

“I wanted to try other [players] and give Katie [Zelem] some space in the centre to create many opportunities. I think it also is pretty aggressive when Lucy [Bronze] and Rachel [Daly] can just press up quickly, in possession and out of possession, today that worked really well.”

The Lionesses next play Nigeria in the Round of Sixteen match at the Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane on Monday, August 7 (8.30am) 

China Women: Zhu Yu, Li Mengwen (Wu Haiyan 75’) Shanshan Wang, Wei Yao, Chen Qiaozhu, Shuang Wang (Gu Yasha 75‘) Lingwei Yao (Dou Jiaxing 90+3‘) Yang Lina, Linyan Zhang, Wu Chengshu (Shen Mengyu 90+3) Lou Jiahui (Linlin Wang 90+11’) Subs not used: Xu Huan, Pan Hongyan, Xin Zhang, Tang Jiali, Xiao Yuyi, Gao Chen

England Women: Earps, Bronze (Charles 71’) Greenwood, Bright, Carter, Stanway (Coombs 45’) Zelem, Hemp (Kelly 71’) Russo (England 71’) James (Toone 81’) Daly Subs not used: Hampton, Roebuck, Charles, Nobbs, Wubben-Moy, Morgan, Robinson

Referee: Casey Reibelt

Assistant Referees: Ramina Tsoi and Heba Saadieh 

Fourth Official: Marianela Araya 

Vidéo Assistant Referee: Juan Soto 

Assistant Video Assistant Referee: Daiane Muniz 

Offside Video Assistant Referee: Shirley Perello 

Attendance: 13,497