Lauren Hemp was superb for England. Alamy Stock Photo

Majestic Lauren Hemp epitomises England's character and class

Lionesses triumph as Australia left to rue missed opportunities after Sam Kerr’s stunning equaliser.

THIS WAS AN England performance with a ruthless edge.

A relentless show of character with the class required to punish Australia when it mattered.

Any talk that the 2022 European champions benefitted from lifting that trophy on home soil can be put to bed after this display.

They dumped the co-hosts out in front of their own fans in Sydney to set up a World Cup final with Spain.

When the Matildas equalised through a sensational Sam Kerr goal in the 63rd minute, cancelling out an impressive Ella Toone effort, it felt as if the pendulum had swung in their favour.

Not so.

Two half chances for Lucy Bronze and Alessio Russo followed in quick succession before the superb Lauren Hemp made Ellie Carpenter pay for a terrible error in judgement. The Australia right full dallied when Millie Bright played a ball over the top.

She needed to clear her lines and re-group.

Instead she gave Hemp the chance to dispossess her, a gift she wasn’t going to pass up. The finish was sharp across the goal and England were back in the lead.

Australia rallied in the final 10 minutes with two chances for Kerr that could have easily made an already-enthralling encounter even more incredible. But the Chelsea striker fluffed her lines with one header and an instinctive volley in the six-yard box after Mary Earps failed to clear a corner with a tame fist.

Then England re-asserted the kind of control that all great teams are capable of, epitomised by the brilliant Hemp.

The 23-year-old was majestic with her spatial awareness and ability to dictate England’s flow in the final third, slowing the pace of the game to her liking and, in a flash, increasing the tempo to leave opponents trailing in her wake.

England’s third goal illustrated all of her qualities.

Hemp picked a loose ball near the centre circle, took a touch to assess her options and held off the challenge of Stephanie Catley in the process.

sam-kerr-of-australia-scores-1-1-during-the-fifa-womens-world-cup-semifinal-between-australia-and-england-on-august-16-2023-in-sydney-photo-mathias-bergeldbildbyrankod-mbmb0695sipa-usa-c Sam Kerr scores a stunning equaliser. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Then she decided to drive forward.

She waited and waited for the right time to release the ball and when Clare Hunt approached she picked her moment, reversing the pass beyond the Australia defender to give Russo a clear sight of goal.

In the 86th minute Hemp still managed to have all her wits about her to make the right decision under pressure.

The new Arsenal signing then fired low and hard across Mackenzie Arnold to complete the move and England’s place in the final was secured.

Until Kerr’s equaliser after the hour it looked as though it would be a comfortable night.

Especially after Ella Tooney’s first-half opener.

There was no danger whenRachel Daly had the ball in hand for a throw in high down the left and waited for someone to show.

Hemp obliged with a run to the byline that offered little threat other than the hope of maybe forcing a corner.

Russo had other ideas, superbly controlling the hooked cross from her teammate when she was under pressure from Hunt at her back just to the left of the six-yard box. At this point, the eventual goal scorer was still outside the area, a slightly interested observer who was about to sense opportunity.

Russo’s delightful first touch took her away from Hunt as well as Carpenter who was now just yards in front.

With her next bit of skill, a sharp shift of her body to change direction, Russo created the angle to reverse a pass to Hemp who was driving into the box.

By now Toone had drifted forward without the covering Mary Fowler to her right or Katrina Gorry on her left realising the danger.

Russo’s pass took a slight deflection off Hunt which saw the ball trickle in the direction of Toone.

Her finish was instinctive, a controlled lash of the right foot that saw the ball swing away from Clare Polkinghorne in front and beyond the reach of goalkeeper Arnold into the far top corner.

It was a stunning strike from the Manchester United star, the first England player – man or woman – to score in the quarter-final, semi-final and final of major tournaments.

ella-toone-of-uk-celebrates-after-0-1-during-the-fifa-womens-world-cup-semifinal-between-australia-and-england-on-august-16-2023-in-sydney-photo-mathias-bergeldbildbyrankod-mbmb0695sipa England players celebrate their first goal. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Toone’s goals off the bench at Euro 2022 helped them to that historic victory on home turf and she may have had to make do with another cameo had Lauren James not been suspended. The Chelsea player took her spot in the starting XI after the opening fixture but it’s indicative of this squad’s mentality that Toone would then be capable of stepping up to deliver on her return.

They needed that character when Kerr delivered a sensational equaliser. Hunt started it off with an aggressive tackle on Russo in a central area, showing anticipation to read the pass into her feet.

Gorry kept the pace of the counter attack going with a first-time pass to Kerr, who had adjusted her body to get on the half turn so she didn’t require a touch with her back to goal. Now she only had sights for England’s.

Kerr drove at club teammate Millie Bright, taking seven touches on the run before firing her shot into the top corner from around 23 yards.

England responded in a style that will have them relishing the final step on this journey.

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