Lauren James was the star of the show as England’s attack came alive in a resounding 6-1 victory over China, securing the Lionesses’ top spot in Group D at the Women’s World Cup.
Alessia Russo opened the scoring after four minutes, and Lauren Hemp and Lauren James added two more goals by halftime. James had another goal disallowed after a VAR check in stoppage time at Adelaide’s Hindmarsh Stadium.
China managed to pull one back with a spot-kick from Wang Shuang after the break, but substitute Chloe Kelly and Rachel Daly added to England’s dominant victory, much to the delight of the 13,497 spectators in the stands.
With this victory, England’s next challenge will be facing Nigeria in the last 16 on Monday in Brisbane.
While England’s earlier group-stage wins against Haiti and Denmark felt like home contests, China enjoyed tremendous support with fans waving flags and drumming at Adelaide United’s home stadium.
With midfielder Keira Walsh sidelined due to injury, there were questions about how manager Sarina Wiegman would cope, but Manchester United’s Katie Zelem, making her first start for the Lionesses, filled the void.
England’s opening goal was set up by Hemp’s excellent pass, leading to James’ header and Russo slotting the ball past Zhu Yu. This goal marked a historic moment, as England became the first team in Women’s World Cup history to score in 16 consecutive matches.
England continued to impress with their passing sequences, and Hemp tapped in for the second goal. Lucy Bronze and Georgia Stanway had their chances, but it was James who extended the lead to three goals with a well-placed free-kick.
A VAR check ruled out what seemed like James’ fourth goal, but China managed to pull one back from the penalty spot through Wang’s confident strike.
However, England’s attacking prowess was relentless, and James found the back of the net again after a fine pass from Jess Carter. Chloe Kelly, coming on as a substitute, made an instant impact with a goal from close range, assisted once again by James.
To seal the victory emphatically, Rachel Daly scored with a powerful volley. Although China had a late opportunity denied by Mary Earps, the match ended 6-1 after an extended stoppage time period.
England celebrated a commanding win, signaling their strong intentions in the tournament.