Megan Rapinoe, USA Beat Spain, Advance to 2019 Women's World Cup Quarter-Final

Gill Clark@@gillclarkyFeatured Columnist IIJune 24, 2019

United States' forward Megan Rapinoe celebrates after scoring a goal during the France 2019 Women's World Cup round of sixteen football match between Spain and USA, on June 24, 2019, at the Auguste-Delaune stadium in Reims, northern France. (Photo by Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP)        (Photo credit should read LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images)

Two Megan Rapinoe penalty kicks saw the United States secure their place in the quarter-finals of the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup on Monday after a 2-1 win over Spain.  

The holders got off to the perfect start by taking the lead after just seven minutes. Rapinoe struck the opener from the spot after Tobin Heath was brought down in the penalty area.

Yet Spain hit back within three minutes of going behind after some poor defensive play by the United States. Lucia Garcia took advantage and teed up Jennifer Hermoso to chip the ball over goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher.

The United States went on to have more of the play throughout the game but were not at their best and needed a second spot-kick with 15 minutes left to play to end Spain's resistance.

Rose Lavelle went down under minimal contact from Virginia Torrecilla, allowing Rapinoe to bag her second of the match and secure a hard-fought win.

USA manager Jill Ellis opted to replace Lindsey Horan with Julie Ertz in midfield, while Spain brought in Vicky Losada and Alexia Putellas for the last-16 clash:

There was plenty of drama right from kick-off, as Spain midfielder Patricia Guijarro tried her luck with a shot that hit Becky Sauerbrunn flush in the face.

The United States then won a spot-kick with just five minutes on the clock after Heath was clipped by Maria Pilar Leon as she cut inside the penalty area.

Captain Rapinoe made no mistake with her penalty, sending goalkeeper Sandra Panos the wrong way with a fierce low shot that flew into the corner.

Yet the holders' lead was short-lived, as Spain hit back quickly:

Sauerbrunn was robbed by Lucia Garcia after a poor pass from goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher. Garcia fed Hermoso, who curled a brilliant finish past the goalkeeper:

Rapinoe came close to restoring USA's lead within minutes of the equaliser. Lavelle picked out the captain with a superb pass, but Rapinoe's low shot was tipped around the post by a diving Panos.

The holders began to dominate the first half, while Spain suffered a blow when Losada was forced off just after the half-hour mark following a hit to the face:

Spain brought on Nahikari Garcia in her place, and the change seemed to help La Roja. Although the United States saw more of the ball, Spain looked a threat on the break.

Grant Wahl at Sports Illustrated offered a neat summary of the first half:

Heath and Lavelle both went close with shots that flew narrowly over the bar at the start of the second half, while Guijarro saw an effort trickle just past the far post for Spain.

The United States toiled but were awarded a contentious penalty when Lavelle went down under slight contact from Torrecilla.

The decision was allowed to stand after a video assistant referee check, but it still divided opinion:

Spain made their protests felt, and Rapinoe was also forced to move the ball back onto the spot before she took her kick, but she kept her composure to fire home the winning goal.

It was hardly a convincing win by the United States, who did just enough to edge Spain, but they will need to sharpen up in defense and attack if they are to retain their title in France.


What's Next?

USA progress to face tournament hosts France in the quarter-finals on Friday at Paris Saint-Germain's Parc des Princes stadium.