March 3, 2011

USWNT Open Algarve Cup with Victory

The United States started the 2011 Algarve Cup on a high note, defeating Japan by a 2-1 margin. The US scored two early goals and made them stand up. The match between two of the world's top five teams was one of six matches played at the Algarve Cup in Portugal on Wednesday.

The US opened the scoring just seven minutes into the match. Nicole Barnhart sent a long free kick from the back which Lauren Cheney headed forward to Amy Rodriguez. From about 20 yards out and with her back to the goal, Rodriguez turned left (her right) and drilled a perfect shot into the right side of the goal.

Just a few minutes later, the US struck again. Cheney laid the ball off to Rodriguez about 40 yards from the goal. Rodriguez sent the ball wide to Heather O'Reilly on the right side. O'Reilly dribbled at the defender into the box, then cut wide. She then sent a low cross from just inside the right side of the penalty to area to Megan Rapinoe, who touched the ball into the net from about eight yards out amid several Japanese defenders.

Aya Miyama got Japan on the board in the 29th minute. After O'Reilly had taken down Yuki Nagasato, the Japanese were awarded a free kick just outside the penalty area. Miyama struck it perfectly into the corner of the goal, cutting the lead in half.

Both teams had several other first half chances, but there was no more scoring in the match. Japan pressed hard for the tie late in the match, but were unable to solve the US defense.

Norway 2, Finland 1

The 2-1 score seemed to be the order of the day as Norway won the other Group A match over Finland by the same score.

Laura Kalmari opened the scoring in the 28th minute of the match, assisted by Tuija Hyyrynen. The lead lasted just a minute, as Norway answered quickly. Elise Thorsnes tied the match at one and then ten minutes later set up Isabell Hervlovsen for what proved to be the game winning goal. As in the US/Japan match, there was no second half scoring.

Iceland 2, Sweden 1

In yet another 2-1 match, Sweden was upset by Iceland, making it three losses already this year for the world's fourth ranked team.

Sweden seemed to be on track, scoring the game's first goal in just the 2nd minute of the match. Josefine Öqvist did the honors and the Swedes looked to be on their way to victory. But, in spite of several chances, they were unable to increase their lead, leaving the door open for Iceland.

Iceland tied the match in the 38th minute as an uncharacteristic error by Sweden's back line handed Margret Lara Vidarsdóttir a great opportunity. She took advantage of the mistake to tie the match at one, which was the halftime score.

Iceland took the lead just 10 minutes into the second half. Hedvig Lindahl stopped a free kick from 30 yards out, but was unable to control the rebound and Iceland's captain, Katrín Jónsdóttir knocked it home. Iceland was able to hold off Sweden for the rest of the match to seal the victory. It marks the first time that Iceland have ever defeated Sweden in international competition.

Denmark 1, China 0

Denmark took advantage of a deflected own goal to defeat China 1-0 in their Algarve Cup opener. The lone goal was scored when Zhang Yanru appeared to have Theresa Nielsen's shot covered, but the ball deflected off of Wang Dongni and rolled past the Chinese goalkeeper to put Denmark up 1-0 in the 20th minute.

Portugal 3, Wales 1

The host Portuguese opened the tournament with a 3-1 victory over Wales. Carla Couto's brace led Portugal to the victory.

Couto and Edita Fernandes gave Portugal an early 2-0 lead, before Loren Dykes scored late in the first half to cut the lead to one. Couto scored her second of the match in the 56th minute to finish the scoring.

Romania 2, Chile 0

Cosmina Dusa's brace sparked Romania to a 2-0 victory over Chile. The 20-year old striker continues to impress after she scored five goals in UEFA World Cup qualifying. Mirela Ganea posted the shutout for the victors.