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U.S. beats England; will play for World Cup title

By ALICIA DelGALLO • Updated Jul 2, 2019 at 6:40 PM

LYON, France — The United States is one game away from back-to-back World Cup titles.

Alex Morgan scored a go-ahead goal on her birthday and Alyssa Naeher saved a late penalty kick to give the U.S. women's national team a 2-1 victory over England during its World Cup semifinal Tuesday at Stade de Lyon.

The U.S. will now stay in Lyon to play for the title Sunday against either Sweden or Netherlands, who play each other Wednesday. England will compete for third place Saturday in Nice.

With the score 2-1 in favor of the Americans, the announced crowd of 53,512 fell silent when England earned a penalty kick in the 69th minute. The call came after England broke loose and raced up the field. Defender Demi Stokes crossed the ball to Ellen White directly in front of the goal, but White tripped and fell and Naeher chased the ball over to the end line.

The Video Assistant Referee reviewed the play and determined U.S. defender Becky Sauerbrunn committed a penalty, coming in contact with White before the English star hit the ground. Lionesses captain Steph Houghton stepped up to take the shot, a grounder to the left side of the net. Naeher anticipated the shot and dove in front of it to prevent the goal and preserve the Americans' 2-1 lead.

Naeher, who had been doubted by many entering her first big tournament as the starting U.S. goalkeeper, received a standing ovation from fans and hugs from teammates.

The entire second half was chippy and physical, but Millie Bright cost England when she drove her studs into Morgan's shin in the 86th minute. The referee handed out Bright's second yellow card of the night, ejecting her from the match and leaving England to fend off the reigning champs with 10 players.

U.S. coach Jill Ellis shocked many when she chose to bench Megan Rapinoe for the semifinal, a move that was not explained by U.S. Soccer before the game except to say it was not for disciplinary reasons. Christen Press started in Rapinoe's place on the left wing and nailed a header into the upper corner of England net for a 1-0 lead 10 minutes in.

Nine minutes later, White became the top scorer in the tournament with her sixth goal, an equalizer that brought the Lionesses even 1-1. She didn't enjoy that title alone for long, though. Alex Morgan scored her sixth World Cup goal in the 31st minute when she got her head a ball passed forward by Lindsey Horan.

After the goal, U.S. fans in the stadium sang "Happy Birthday" to the star, who turned 30 Tuesday.

Another big VAR decision in the 69th minute preserved the United States' lead. White charged the net to receive a long ball forward, paused for half a second to confound Naeher and then tapped the ball into the left side of the net. Before play resumed, however, the referee signaled for video review and the words "NO GOAL | OFFSIDE" flashed on the big screen moments later to a loud cheer from the crowd.

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