England reach first Women’s World Cup final despite Kerr stunner

SYDNEY - England reached their first Women’s World Cup final af­ter beating Australia 3-1 on Wednesday despite a wonder goal from Matildas striker Sam Kerr as the co-hosts’ fairytale run came to an end. 

After falling at the semi-final stage in the previous two World Cups, England will face Spain on Sunday looking to add a world title to last year’s European Championship triumph. Attack­ing midfielder Ella Toone gave England a first-half lead to si­lence the crowd of 75,784 but a stunning strike from Kerr, mak­ing her first start of the tourna­ment, squared things up after halftime as Stadium Australia erupted in euphoria. 

However, Lauren Hemp re­stored England’s lead before Alessia Russo put the result be­yond doubt shortly before the end. “This is the one thing I’ve always wanted, to make finals at a World Cup and after two times of getting huge disappointment, honestly I can’t believe it,” Eng­land full back Lucy Bronze said. “We all dreamed of being in the final and all our family and friends who booked to stay here until the final because they all believed in us.” 

Sarina Wiegman’s side clear­ly had a game plan to impose themselves physically on Aus­tralia, committing nine fouls in the first half as they nullified their opponents’ attacking op­tions. England opened the scor­ing in the 36th minute when Russo worked her way to the byline before cutting the ball back and Toone smashed it into the top right corner for her first goal of the tournament. 

Australia started the second half much brighter and began pressing England higher up the pitch, looking to create a historic moment that would match Cathy Freeman’s incredible 400 me­tres victory in the same venue at the 2000 Olympics. And they got it in the 63rd minute when Kerr received the ball in her own half, ran toward goal and fired an unstoppable rocket into the top left corner from 25 yards out be­yond the diving Mary Earps. 

The stadium erupted as Aus­tralia fans finally got to see their star striker score at this tourna­ment, reigniting hope that Tony Gustavsson’s side could yet play for the title. But the hosts found themselves behind again less than 10 minutes later. Matildas defender Ellie Carpenter failed to deal with a long ball over the top from Millie Bright, allowing Hemp an easy finish into the bottom corner to restore Eng­land’s lead. 

The 23-year-old was in­volved once more as the game entered the final stages. Shortly after Kerr had missed a golden chance to equalise again, Hemp turned brilliantly on the halfway line before re­leasing Russo, who fired a low shot into the far corner to seal England’s place in the final. 

Australia will play Sweden in the third-place playoff on Saturday and Kerr said they were proud of what they had achieved despite falling at the penultimate hurdle.

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