Host team wins in opener

Sin­clair scores in fi­nal min­utes in front of a sell­out crowd of 53,058 in Ed­mon­ton.

Los Angeles Times - - WOMEN’S WORLD CUP - By Kevin Bax­ter kevin.bax­ter@la­times.com Bax­ter re­ported from Win­nipeg, Canada.

Canada couldn’t have scripted Satur­day’s open­ing act of the Women’s World Cup any bet­ter.

The hosts played be­fore a sell­out crowd in Ed­mon­ton, beat China, 1-0, and got the win­ning goal from Chris­tine Sin­clair, the best player in the coun­try’s spot­ted soc­cer his­tory.

Canada does need to work on its cel­e­bra­tions, though. Be­cause af­ter Sin­clair con­verted her gamewin­ning penalty kick in stop­page time, she raced across the field and into the open arms of Coach John Herd­man be­fore things got a lit­tle weird.

“My cel­e­bra­tion, I’m pretty em­bar­rassed,” Herd­man said later. “I think it’s the only time a coach has jumped on a player.”

He’ll be for­given— es­pe­cially since Canada’s sec­ond World Cup win since 2003 has the home team poised to ad­vance out of group play for the sec­ond time ever.

“That was a good start for Canada,” Herd­man said. “Andthat’s what we wanted, the three points. That was the most im­por­tant part.”

Be­fore Satur­day, in­ter­est in the tour­na­ment, the first se­nior soc­cer cham­pi­onship to be staged in Canada, had been lag­ging, with some of­fi­cials fear­ing the opener wouldn’t sell out. But a crowd of 53,058, the largest ever for a na­tional team sport­ing event in Canada, wound up pack­ing Ed­mon­ton Sta­dium.

They­were treated first to a gala open­ing cer­e­mony that in­cluded Cana­dian singer Sarah McLach­lan but had no of­fi­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tive of FIFA, world soc­cer’s gov­ern­ing body, which con­tin­ues to deal with the af­ter­math of last month’s fed­eral in­dict­ments.

How­ever, the real show be­gan in stop­page time, when China’s Zhao Rong el­bowed Canada’s Adri­ana Leon, who made lit­tle ef­fort to stop from tum­bling to the turf.

Ref­er­ees have been told to deal harshly with blows to the head in this World Cup, so Ukrainian of­fi­cial Natalia Rachyn­ska did not hes­i­tate in award­ing the penalty kick.

“The first thing that went through my head was, ‘I’m tak­ing this.’ I’ve been prac­tic­ing my whole life for that mo­ment,” Sin­clair said. “The next thing through my head was, ‘Man, the fans are very loud right now.’

“I’d be ly­ing if I said I wasn’t ner­vous. It’s the open­ing game of the World Cupin front of 50-some-odd thou­sand fans with the gameon the line.”

Sin­clair sent her kick low, to­ward the left post. And though Chi­nese keeper Wang Fei dived that­way, the shot was just out of her reach, strik­ing the post and ric­o­chet­ing in for the 154th goal of Sin­clair’s ca­reer. Only Amer­i­cans Abby Wam­bach and Mia Hamm have more.

“Yeah it’s nerve-rack­ing,” Sin­clair added. “But I live for those mo­ments.”

Kevin C. Cox Getty Im­ages

CHRIS­TINE SIN­CLAIR of Canada scored the win­ning goal on a penalty kick in stop­page time against China in the open­ing game of the Women’s World Cup.

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