Sin­clair’s penalty kick saves hosts in Cup opener

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - CANADA 1, CHINA 0 BY ANNE M. PETER­SON — As­so­ci­ated Press

ED­MON­TON — Christine Sin­clair con­verted a penalty kick in the sec­ond minute of sec­ond-half stop­page time to give host Canada a 1-0 victory over China on Satur­day in the open­ing match of the Women’s World Cup in Ed­mon­ton.

Canada was awarded the penalty by Ukrainian ref­eree Natalia Rachyn­ska af­ter Adri­ana Leon was fouled by Rong Zhao. The sell­out crowd of 53,058 at Com­mon­wealth Sta­dium, the largest for a na­tional team sport­ing even in Canada, roared when Sin­clair’s shot sailed past goal­keeper Wang Fei.

Sin­clair’s goal erased a frus­trat­ing match for Canada, which out­shot the vis­i­tors 14-5.

Canada en­tered ranked No. 8 in the world. China is No. 16.

Fol­low­ing the gala open­ing cer­e­mony that in­cluded per­for­mances by Cana­di­ans Sarah McLachlan and Te­gan and Sara, China came clos­est to scor­ing with a first-half free kick that bounced off both posts.

It was the first match of the month-long tour­na­ment that will be played across six Canadian cities. The United States opens Mon­day against Australia, and the fi­nal is set for July 5.

The pres­sure is on Canada. Its best fin­ish was fourth in 2003, and the Cana­di­ans were 0-3 at the 2011 tour­na­ment in Ger­many.

Canada has been on the rise in re­cent years un­der Coach John Herd­man and also has seen in­creased sup­port by the gov­ern­ment in ad­vance of the World Cup. The team had a sur­pris­ing bronze medal fin­ish at the 2012 Lon­don Olympics.

China is re­turn­ing to the ex­panded 24-na­tion World Cup af­ter miss­ing out in 2011, when the field was 16 teams.

Known as the Steel Roses, China’s best World Cup fin­ish was sec­ond in 1999, when the team fell to the United States in the fi­nal at the Rose Bowl.

On Satur­day, Sin­clair had a chance in the eighth minute, but her strike sailed just wide and past the out­stretched arms of China’s goal­keeper.

Gu Yasha threat­ened Canada goal­keeper Erin McLeod, who came far off her line to stop the attack in the 18th minute. China’s Wang Lisi’s in­cred­i­ble free kick just min­utes later bounced be­tween both posts but did not make it in the goal.

Sin­clair got a cou­ple of chances late in the match, in­clud­ing a shot off a pass from So­phie Sch­midt that was scooped up by Wang Fei.

Group A also in­cludes New Zealand and the Nether­lands; they met in the late match on Satur­day.

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