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June 15, 2008
Wambach hits game-winner for U.S., 2-1

Anny Wambach scored the game winner in the USA's 2-1 win over Australia.
Anny Wambach scored the game winner in the USA's 2-1 win over Australia.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Suwon, South Korea -- Forward Abby Wambach struck for her 96th international goal in the 77th minute as the U.S. Women’s National Team recorded a 2-1 victory over Australia in its opening match of the Peace Queen Cup on a hot, humid Sunday afternoon.

“When you go into a tournament it’s always good to have a win instead of a tie,” U.S. coach Pia Sundhage said. “That is good for the confidence and we go from there. We will not only look at the result, but also how we did in attacking and defending.”

The match contrasted the two meetings between the teams earlier this spring when the U.S. won by 3-2 and 5-4 scores, but once again the U.S. gutted out a one-goal victory. Australia played compact defense to limit the Americans' chances while the U.S. back line did a great job of keeping Matilda speedster Lisa De Vanna in front of them.

“Australia is a great team," Wambach said. "They’ve been showing that to us every single time they step on the field. Personally, since I practice against our back line every day, for another team to score as many goals as they have the past three games is a credit to their offense. Defensively, we’ve been doing the best we can and I know firsthand how good our defense is, so credit goes out to Australia.”

Looking heavy-legged at times in the early going, the U.S. got on the board first in the 35th minute through a bit of flank play from midfielder Heather O’Reilly. She created the goal after collecting a ball on the right wing and pausing to assess the situation. She raced down the flank, beating an Australia defender to create space before sending a chip into the penalty area. Natasha Kai was making a cutting run and slipped in front of a defender before beating goalkeeper Melissa Barbieri to the ball. Kai poked it by her from six yards into the lower left corner with the ball barely touching the post as it rolled over the line.

The goal was Kai’s team-leading 11th of the year and 19th of her international career.

Both U.S. goal scorers had collision incidents within three minutes of each other in the first half as Kai had to leave the game for a while due to a cut under her left eye, courtesy of a Cheryl Salisbury elbow, while Wambach took a hip to the ribs that necessitated a few moments of breath-catching before she rose to her feet.

Australia scored the equalizer came in the 57th minute as Amy Chapman chipped in a cross from the right wing that landed amongst a group of U.S. defenders, but took an awkward spinning bounce to the foot of Heather Garriock. The Australia midfielder got only a small piece of the ball on her shot, but it was enough send the well-placed change-up trickling U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo and into the lower right corner.

“Every time you give up a goal, you’re disappointed, but I’d rather be giving up goals now and learning from them rather than giving up goals in August," U.S. defender Kate Markgraf said. "Every time you give up a goal it’s actually exposing a weakness we need to work on.”

Halftime-substitute Aly Wagner, seeing her first action of year after a long recovery from a double-hernia operation, sent a service off a corner kick to the backpost just outside the six-yard box. Wambach rose up over two defenders and with her back to the goal, sent a shot on goal off the back of her head. The ball snuck past the diving Barbieri and through a small gap over the left hip of Garriock, who was standing on the goal line, and the right post. The ball bounded off the post at such an angle that it clearly crossed the goal line, but never hit the net.

“Australia is good in the air," Wambach said. "They are good putting a body on you and trying to do their best to clear the ball and they were doing really well up until that one play. I just got a little bit higher and I think my body actually turned around a little bit. It went off the (ponytail).”

It was a rare U.S. goal off a set play.

“We’ve been focusing on our set plays this past week and it’s nice to get the affirmation that what you’re doing is right," Wambach said. "If you see the replay…you’ll see that it went off the back of my head, so a little bit of luck involved in that.”

The U.S. will have one day of rest before facing Brazil in its second Group B match, that taking place at the Suwon Sports Complex Tuesday at 2 p.m. local (1 a.m. ET). The two teams are tied atop the group after Brazil defeated Italy, 2-1, in Sunday’s second Group B game.

Brazil got a sixth minute header from sweeper Erika and a scrappy goal in the 77th from Maurine, who finished a rebound. Italy had equalized on a penalty kick right before halftime from Tatiana Zorri. The penalty occurred on a bizarre play as a Brazilian defender picked up the ball with her hands near the end line. The ball was rolling out of bounds, but hadn’t fully crossed over the line.

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