Arsenal head coach Jonas Eidevall has questioned Sarina Wiegman for not subbing off Lauren James prior to the Lionesses star getting sent off for lashing out at Michelle Alozie in Monday’s last-16 penalty shootout win over Nigeria at the Women’s World Cup.
Although England bossed possession for large periods in the match it was Nigeria who were by far the more threatening of the two sides. The 11-time Africa Cup of Nations champions played with so much energy and vigour going forward, racking up 20 shots, and they hit the woodwork three times.
They were rather profligate, though, with Mary Earps only forced into making two stops while it was England who carved out the best chance of normal time when Rachel Daly was left unmarked from a corner in the 76th minute.
But England’s task was made especially hard when James was sent off for violent conduct in the 87th minute. The Chelsea attacker had initially been shown a yellow card for an off-the-ball altercation but the referee was sent to the monitor by VAR to review the incident.
After a coming together with Alozie, James clearly thrust her boot into the back of her opponent while she was lying on the floor and, after watching numerous replays on the pitch-side monitor, Melissa Borjas was forced to upgrade her original decision to a red card.
Eidevall felt James – who excelled in the group stages – had already been showing signs of frustration in the contest after struggling to get involved in the match and believes Wiegman made a mistake by not replacing her sooner.
Asked if James had been left on the pitch too long, Eidevall told BBC Sport: ‘It’s decision fatigue. The two games before this probably took their toll for energy, we could see in the game that she was starting to take some bad decisions on and off the ball.
‘I think the lack of subs in the second half surprised me here form England, because I think the momentum was not going their way.
‘England are quite lucky to actually be here now for extra-time and they could have been more proactive with the subs. Now they need to find a strategy with 10 players.’
Alex Scott agreed, saying: ‘We’re actually questioning Sarina for the first time ever about why she didn’t bring on someone like Chloe Kelly earlier to bring fresh legs on, or even Beth England to run in behind.’
Despite James seeing red, England defended superbly in extra-time to force a penalty shootout which they won 4-2 with Chloe Kelly netting an emphatic final spot-kick to seal the Lionesses’ progress.
On James’ sending off, former Lionesses striker Ellen White said: ‘It’s disappointing. She was frustrated throughout the game, she wasn’t really in the game as much as she would have liked.
‘But she’s clearly stood on the Nigeria player. There was just no need for it, was there? Really disappointing.’
Scott added: ‘Now it’s about England trying to find a way and coming together as a team.
‘And you have to applaud this Nigeria team, they have been fantastic, their gameplan, their physicality, how they have pressed England. You have to hold up your hands and say England are actually lucky to have not lost this game [yet].’
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