England have reached a FIFA Women’s World Cup semi-final for the first time after an absorbing 2-1 win over host nation Canada in Vancouver.
Two early goals laid the foundations for the historic win, first through Jodie Taylor and then Lucy Bronze as the Lionesses raced into the lead.
Katie Chapman hit the bar before Canada captain Christine Sinclair halved the arrears just before half-time.
England 2-1 Canada
FIFA Women's World Cup 2015
Sunday 28 June
BC Place Stadium, Vancouver
John Herdman’s side had chances to get back into the game in the second half, but England held on well for a last-four showdown with the World Cup holders, Japan, on Wednesday.
Boss Mark Sampson made two changes to the team that defeated Norway in the round of 16 on Monday, with Jill Scott and Taylor coming in for Fran Kirby and Toni Duggan respectively.
It was Taylor’s first start at the tournament following a knee injury in the build-up to the finals – and what an impact she had.
However, England’s blistering start might not have come to fruition had Melissa Tancredi been more composed in the early stages.
Some great play by the irrepressible Sinclair on the right-hand touchline allowed her to nutmeg both Laura Bassett and Fara Williams which gave her the room to pick out Tancredi on the opposite flank.
The Canadian No14 stepped in from the left, skipped past Bronze but fired a presentable chance wildly over the bar.
The Canucks were immediately punished for the miss.
Taylor pounced when centre back Lauren Sesselmann slipped in possession midway inside her own half.
The England striker picked up the ball, side-stepped the covering Allysha Chapman and drilled a low shot beyond Erin McLeod to give her side a dream opening.
And it got even better just three minutes later when Bronze headed home Fara Williams’s free-kick to put the Lionesses in control with less than a quarter of an hour on the clock.
If Sampson’s plan had been to silence the partisan fervour early on, his team carried out his instructions to the letter.
Tancredi had an opportunity to halve the deficit soon after but could only head Sesselmann’s left-sided free-kick over the bar.
England midfielder Chapman came even closer just before the 30-minute mark when she nodded another Williams free-kick against the bar.
But Canada came again and pulled a goal back on 42 minutes.
Ashley Lawrence did well to dig out a low cross from the edge of the box which Karen Bardsley could not hold. Sinclair was in the right place to prod home the rebound and send BC Place Stadium crowd wild.
Sampson was forced into a change early in the second half when Bardsley went off with an eye injury. Arsenal stopper Siobhan Chamberlain came on for her first appearance at the finals.
Taylor came close to a sublime second when she attempted to curl a right-footer into the far corner, but Canada goalkeeper Erin McLeod was equal to it and palmed the ball away for a corner.
In search of an equaliser to keep their home World Cup dream alive, Canada tried upping the ante midway through the second period. Their efforts lifted the crowd, though they had little to show for their pressure, save for a Sinclair free-kick that dipped over the frame of Chamberlain’s goal.
England chances were few and far between as the game reached its conclusion, as they were forced to battle for supremacy in the middle of the field.
Karen Carney hit a shot onto the roof of the net and Steph Houghton drilled a free-kick into McLeod’s arms in the Lionesses’ rare sights at the Canada goal.
As the game entered its final 10 minutes, Canada substitute Adriana Leon, on for Tancredi, danced her way into the England box but was foiled by a combination of Bronze and Bassett, while Claire Rafferty cleared the weak shot off the goalline.
Sophie Schmidt, who scored the winner when these two sides met in a World Cup warm-up in May, was the next Canadian to try her luck, but her half-volley flew just beyond the angle of post and bar.
With the clock ticking down, Canada’s substitutes leapt from the bench to stoke the crowd for one final push, but thankfully for England, the comeback never materialised.
Sampson’s Lionesses will now travel to Edmonton where they will face Japan in the semi-final on Wednesday.
England have already made history and are now just two games away from glory.
England (4-2-3-1): 1 Karen Bardsley (Manchester City); 12 Lucy Bronze (Manchester City), 5 Steph Houghton (captain; Manchester City), 6 Laura Bassett (Notts County), 3 Claire Rafferty (Chelsea); 11 Jade Moore (Birmingham City), 4 Fara Williams (Liverpool); 8 Jill Scott (Manchester City), 16 Katie Chapman (Chelsea), 10 Karen Carney (Birmingham City); 19 Jodie Taylor (Portland Thorns).
Substitutes: 13 Siobhan Chamberlain (Arsenal) for Bardsley 52, 23 Ellen White (Notts County) for Williams 79, 15 Casey Stoney (Arsenal) for Carney 90+3
Substitutes not used: 2 Alex Scott (Arsenal), 7 Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal), 9 Eniola Aluko (Chelsea), 14 Alex Greenwood (Notts County), 17 Jo Potter (Birmingham City), 18 Toni Duggan (Manchester City), 20 Lianne Sanderson (Arsenal), 21 Carly Telford (Notts County), 22 Fran Kirby (Reading).
Goals: Taylor 11, Bronze 14
Bookings: Moore 63
Head coach: Mark Sampson
Canada (4-3-3): 1 Erin McLeod; 7 Rhian Wilkinson, 3 Kadeisha Buchanan, 10 Lauren Sesselmann, 15 Alysha Chapman; 22 Ashley Lawrence, 11 Desiree Scott, 13 Sophie Schmidt; 14 Melissa Tancredi, 9 Josee Belanger, 12 Christine Sinclair (C).
Substitutes: 8 Diana Matheson for Wilkinson 62, 19 Adriana Leon for Tancredi 71, 6 Kaylyn Kyle for Scott 77
Substitutes not used: 2 Emily Zurrer, 4 Carmelina Moscato, 5 Robyn Gayle, 16 Jonelle Filigno, 17 Jessie Fleming, 18 Selenia Iacchelli, 20 Marie-Eve Nault, 21 Stephanie Labbe, 23 Karina LeBlanc.
Goal: Sinclair 42
Bookings: Sesselmann 90+2
Head coach: John Herdman
Referee: Claudia Umpierrez (URU)