Lauren James Fires England to a 1-0 Win over Denmark at the Women’s World Cup

AP Photo/Sophie Ralph
England’s Lauren James, right, celebrates a first half goal with teammate England’s Ella Toone during the Women’s World Cup Group D soccer match between England and Denmark at Sydney Football Stadium in Sydney, Australia, Friday, July 28, 2023.

SYDNEY (AP) — In the end, it was worth the wait.

With a flash of early brilliance, Lauren James ended England’s run of more than seven hours without a goal from open play to seal a 1-0 win against Denmark at the Women’s World Cup on Friday.

The Chelsea star scored after six minutes of her first start at the tournament to put the Lionesses on course for back-to-back wins in Group D.

It was a dream and something I’ve been thinking about, but most importantly I’m happy to help us win, James said. “I kind of had a thought and then as soon as it hit the net, it was just relief.”

James, who came off the bench in England’s tight opening win over Haiti, made a quick impression when given her chance from the start against Denmark.

Collecting the ball outside the area, she curled a right-foot shot beyond the reach of goalkeeper Lene Christensen to score what turned out to be the winner for European champion England.

It came too early for us, Denmark coach Lars Sondergaard said. “It upset us a little bit. We were then on the back foot a little bit and England got confidence through this beautiful goal.”

James, the sister of Chelsea and England men’s player Reece James, is considered one of the brightest prospects in women’s soccer.

She lived up to that billing, being named player of the match against Denmark and bringing a new energy to England’s attack, which has lacked cutting edge in the build up to the World Cup.

She was the key difference between an England team that had looked predictable in attack against Haiti and one that threatened to overrun Denmark in the opening half an hour in Sydney.

Not that her coach Sarina Wiegman wanted to place too much focus on the forward, trying to deflect any question about the player.

James’ former Chelsea teammate and Denmark captain Pernille Harder was happier to give praise.

I’ve seen her do that so many times in training, I knew that we had to keep an eye on her her right foot, she said. “She does that really well. She’s a great player.”

For all of James’ brilliance, England still required the width of the post to secure another narrow win.

Denmark substitute Amalie Vangsgaard went close to scoring a dramatic late equalizer with a header in the final moments of regulation time.

The forward, who came off the bench to score a 90th-minute winner against China last week, beat England keeper Mary Earps, only to see her effort come back off the woodwork.

Earps had already been called upon to push away Katrine Veje’s cross that was heading into the top corner as Denmark finished the stronger.

We could see that England got a little bit insecure, lost balls, easy balls, Sondergaard said. “I think we put pressure on them in the last part of second half and through that could’ve deserved an equalizer.”

A turning point appeared to be an injury to England midfielder Keira Walsh late in the first half. She needed to leave the field on a stretcher after what appeared to be a knee injury.

Of course I’m concerned, Wiegman said. “She couldn’t walk off the pitch. We don’t know yet (how serious it is). Let’s wait. We had to find our feet. We really dominated the first half and then Keira went out.”

While questions still hang over England, it was another win for the back-to-back semifinalist.

James’ goal, meanwhile, saw the Lionesses equal Norway’s record of 15-successive games at the tournament in which they’ve scored.

It was a pretty exciting game, pretty end-to-end, but we’re pleased we’ve got in this position, England captain Millie Bright said. “Two games, two wins, two clean sheets. Some really good parts of both games, but I think tonight mentality and character was a big part of the second half especially. First half (was) really good, really good goal from LJ but yeah, overall, really happy to be in the position we are in.”


England takes on China in Adelaide in its last game in Group D on Tuesday, while Denmark faces Haiti in Perth.