Friday, January 21, 2011
Canada opens 2011 season in first place
Canada opened its 2011 season with a 3:2 come-from-behind victory over China PR at the Yongchuan Cup Four-Nation Women's Tournament. Canada scored three times in the second half - including the last-minute winner in the 94th minute - to overcome a two-goal deficit and win three points on Match Day One of the competition.
"I think our team showed great personality," said national head coach Carolina Morace. "It is not easy to score three goals when you are down by two goals, especially to win (like we did against China) in China."
Melissa Tancredi started the comeback in the 56th minute and then assisted on a pair of Christine Sinclair goals in the 80th and 94th minutes. The winning goal was scored on the last offensive play of the match.
"All three goals were very good goals," said Morace, who was impressed with Tancredi's strength and power on the ball. "I was very happy for (Tancredi) because sometimes I think she doesn't realize the potential she has inside. She wanted to score today."
Canada had countless opportunities in the first half. In fact, the away team could have been up 1-0 on a glorious chance in the 13th minute. Getting back just in time, China PR managed to clear a Sinclair shot off the line. Six minutes later, China PR turned the table and took a 1-0 lead on You Jia's first of two goals on the night.
Again five minutes later, Canada created a great chance to score off a free kick. This time, a trick play between Sinclair and Diana Matheson nearly resulted in a goal. There was a rebound chance inside the box, but amazingly the ball remained out of the net.
Despite their early chances, Canada couldn't buy a goal. Then in the 36th minute, China PR's You Jia made it 2-0.
Within a minute of Canada going down a second goal, the team was pushing right back with chances at the opposite end. Canada won two quick corners and then carried that momentum right through into the break.
"We had so many chances, we knew that we could win the game," said Tancredi. "We had the momentum going into the second half. Our whole goal was not to give up and to just keep going. As soon as we got the first goal, that was all we needed to push off from there."
Tancredi created a good opportunity with a cross in the 55th minute, but then scored herself the first of three Canadian goals just one minute later. Substitute Sophie Schmidt won the ball in the midfield and got it to Kaylyn Kyle who struck the ball forward to Tancredi. Tancredi then chipped her shot from the right side of the box over the Chinese goalkeeper Zhang Yue.
"Kaylyn played a good through ball to me," said Tancredi. "I took a touch with my right foot and just played it across the goalkeeper into the top corner."
With the Chinese lead cut in half, the Canadian players started to apply even more pressure as they pushed for a second goal. Sinclair and Tancredi nearly combined for a goal in the 76th minute on a Tancredi header, but then four minutes later Tancredi passed it to Sinclair for the captain's first of the 2011 campaign.
On a Chinese giveaway, Tancredi intercepted the pass back and then pushed it forward to Sinclair. Sinclair fired it in from the left side to even the score 2-2.
"It was a relief in the second half when the balls started to go in," said Sinclair.
Sinclair's second goal was scored in the 94th minute, just moments before the referee blew the final whistle. Schmidt cleared the ball from just above the Canadian box into the middle of the pitch, Tancredi won the ball and flicked it forward over one defender, and Sinclair outran the Chinese defence to win her breakaway and score the winning goal.
"She played a perfect pass to send me on a breakaway," said Sinclair. "In my head, I was thinking, 'this is the last play of the game so I better score."
Canada played a good game, despite giving away two goals in the first half. Substitute goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc made a couple of big saves in the second half and the Canadian defence dug in deep to neutralize the advances that China PR tried to make.
Rhian Wilkinson was very good on one notable defensive play in the 93rd minute when she won the ball and turned her back on a Chinese attacker inside the Canadian box. That Chinese chance could have sent the home side home happy, but the Canadians ended it all with the Sinclair goal just a minute later.
"Tanc got the monkey off our back and was clutch tonight," said captain Sinclair. "She scored the first goal and set me up for two."
For this match, Canada's starting XI featured Erin McLeod in goal, Marie-Eve Nault at left back, Emily Zurrer and Candace Chapman at centre back, Rhian Wilkinson at right back, and Carmelina Moscato, Diana Matheson, Kaylyn Kyle, Jonelle Filigno, Melissa Tancredi and captain Christine Sinclair from the midfield up through to the attack.
Canada made the maximum five substitutions in the second half. Before the restart, McLeod (injured) and Moscato were replaced by Karina LeBlanc and Sophie Schmidt. Coach Morace then brought in Jodi-Ann Robinson in the 68th minute (for Filigno), Robyn Gayle in the 75th minute (for Nault), and Desiree Scott in the 82nd minute (for Kyle).
China PR's starting XI featured Zhang Yue in goal, Zhou Gaoping at left back, Weng Xinzhi and Yuan Fan at centre back, Yu Yahui at right back, and Zhang Na, Qu Shanshan, You Jia, Pang Fengyue, Gu Yasha and captain Xu Yuan from the midfield up through to the attack. China PR made three substitutions in the second half, replacing Yu Yahui with Li Danyang in the 51st minute, goal scorer You Jia with Wang Yihang in the 68th minute, and captain Li Lin with Xu Yuan in the 79th minute.
Canada extended its current unbeaten streak to 11 matches with the Friday night victory, improving to nine wins and two draws since 30 September in Toronto. Canada has also beaten China PR in back-to-back matches for the first time ever.
Canada, whose title sponsor is Winners and presenting sponsor is Teck, will continue at the Yongchuan Cup in two days. Match Day 2 will feature Canada against USA and Sweden against host China PR.