England made it back-to-back wins at the Women’s World Cup to book a place in the last-16 after a hard-fought win over Argentina.
The Lionesses were frustrated by their opponents for an hour before striker Jodie Taylor manufactured some space at the back post to tap into an empty net. In the end that was all they required to win the game.
Nikita Parris had earlier missed a penalty and there was a growing sense that this was going to be one of those night’s for England before Taylor’s crucial intervention.
Jodie Taylor’s outstretched leg sent England to victory as the Lionessess made it back-to-back wins at the World Cup
The 33-year-old forward had worked herself into space in the area and as the ball came across she had an open goal to aim at
Taylor’s goal sparked wild celebrations between her and her team-mates after Argentina proved difficult to break down
Even when the goal was scored, England boss Phil Neville urged his players to push on for more as he refused to relax at 1-0
The Argentine defender Adriana Sachs had hinted that there was needle where this particular old foe is concerned but England had not anticipated quite such a level of physicality.
It was bordering on assault at times in the first half. Lucy Bronze – put into the air by Miriam Mayorga as they went for one challenge and shoved towards the touchline by Aldana Cometti in the only offence which earned a yellow card – bore the most obvious blows.
But there was a malicious kind of malice, too. Ruth Bravo placed studs into Jill Scott’s boots as the waited to compete for a clearance.
England were unsettled, thrown out their rhythm, struggling to get into the final third and find any kind of accuracy from crosses.
Nikita Parris was handed a golden chance to give England a first half lead after Neville’s side were awarded a penalty
But Parris’ side-footed effort to the right was read by Argentina goalkeeper Vanina Correa and she saved the spot-kick
There was delight from her team-mates after her moment of brilliance ensured the South American side stayed in the game
Parris let out a cry of sheer frustration on a night where the Lionesses were continually frustrated in attack in Le Havre
Neville was animated on the touchline and continued throughout to issue words of advice and encouragement to his players
England: Telford, Bronze, Houghton, McManus, Greenwood, Mead (Stanway 81), Moore, Scott, Kirby, Taylor, Parris (Daly 87).
Subs not used: Bardsley, Walsh, Bright, Stokes, Williamson, White, Carney, Staniforth, Duggan, Earps.
Goals: Taylor (61)
Argentina: Correa, Sachs, Barroso, Cometti, Stabile, Bravo, Mayorga, Benitez (Santana 77), Banini (Larroquette 68), Bonsegundo, Jaimes.
Subs not used: Oviedo, Garton, Gomez, Potassa, Coronel, Chavez, Ippolito, Juncos, Menendez, Pereyra.
Booked: Cometti, Barroso
Referee: Qin Liang (China)
Fran Kirby, the player they most look to for delivery in the tight pockets of space, operated deep in central midfield.
Neville exhorts his players to be brave and break the tactical lines with forward passes but despite England’s first half domination – 152 passes to the South Americans’ 27 – they too often went square.
The game-plan seemed to have identified the Argentinian right as the flank to exploit, with Beth Mead’s natural pace destabilising for Sachs, though this rendered Nikita Parris, the player most likely to deliver the unexpected component, an marginal presence in that first period.
The lock seemed to have been picked three minutes before the half hour, when the first half’s outstanding move brought the penalty.
Steph Houghton was the protagonist, with a 30-yard pass on the diagonal, deftly controlled and navigated by Beth Mead into the path of the Alex Greenwood who was felled by Ruth Bravo as she took the ball into the area.
The Chinese official made Parris’ wait to take the penalty an interminable one, as she fussed over encroachments into the area. But the Liverpudlian’s kick was marginally too close to goalkeeper Vanina Correa who leapt to her left to repel it.
The goalkeeper was mobbed by her team-mates and repeated the heroics when Mead was sent through on goal after Kirby intercepted a poor defensive clearance and shipped the ball into her path.
The Arsenal forward’s shot, five minutes before the break, was not clinical enough and Correa was able to stab out a left foot to block.
For the second game here, England lacked a creative fulcrum with the versatile Scott, winning the midfield battles one minute and advancing to join the attack the next, the most effective presence.
England and Arsenal ace Beth Mead (right) was given little room to create meaningful opportunities as she was marked well
England dominated the contest in wide areas and were left calling for a foul when Alex Greenwood was felled by Ruth Bravo
It proved a physical Group D tie with both sides pushing for a top two finish as Jade Moore (left) tackled Miriam Mayorga
Argentina goalkeeper Correa put in a superb display as she produced a string of fine saves in a bid to to keep her clean sheet
Frustration looked to be creeping in before the ball came across from the left and was met by Taylor on the stretch (right)
The goal was scored in front of the travelling England supporters and Taylor’s composed finish sparked wild celebrations
Neville tried to keep his emotions in check throughout but gave a double fist-pump to his players as they saw the result out