Goals from Steph Houghton and Ellen White helped send England’s women into the quarter final of the World Cup in France, after a hard-fought interesting knock out match against Cameroon.
It was a fiery encounter, which saw England benefit from two VAR decisions, while the opposition looked at one stage to be ready to not continue with the match. If England weren’t aware they were in the middle of a battle, they did early on, as Yvonne Leuko was booked for an elbow on Nikita Parris, then another former blue Toni Duggan was spat on just before England’s opener.
The Cameroon goalkeeper collected the ball inside the penalty area, but the referee adjudged it to be a backpass and awarded England an indirect free kick. Up stepped captain Houghton to guide the ball beyond the line of players in front of her to give England the lead.
The Lionesses worked hard, but sloppy, misplaced passes were creeping into their play, and at 1-0, there was always a chance of a Cameroon equaliser. That seemed to diminish on the stroke of half time, with the game’s first controversial decision.
New City signing White scored her fourth goal in three matches, but a late flag initially ruled the goal as offside. A short delay while VAR was checked resulted in the goal being awarded, White adjudged to be onside by a tight margin.
It was then that the Cameroon players did something rather extraordinary. Contesting the award, the players pointed to the screens, which showed Duggan in an offside position, but not interfering with play. Dismayed by the apparent injustice, it looked like the Cameroon players were refusing to restart the match, despite the referee telling them to get on with it.
In the second half, more controversy as Cameroon then had a goal disallowed by another fine margin. Initially disallowed by the assistant, the decision was made by VAR, who declared offside in the build up to the goal. This incensed Cameroon more and tempers threatened to boil over.
On 58 minutes, the Lionesses made the game safe. Toni Duggan’s corner found Alex Greenwood, who swept the ball home for her first England goal. This did nothing for the Cameroon temperament, and the physicality continued on England. Karen Bardsley was called into action late on to deny Cameroon a consolation goal.
In the final minutes, Houghton received an off-the-ball stamp down the calf from Alexandra Takounda, which once again was left to VAR to decide on the course of action to be taken. As Houghton lay on the ground, she then appeared to receive some abuse from the Cameroon captain standing over her, who then remonstrated with the referee as a yellow card was shown to Takounda.
But despite the bruising encounter, England went through and will now meet Norway in the quarter final on Thursday.