Down to 10 players for 70 minutes, Canada was able to hang on to beat Australia 2-0 this afternoon in a thrilling opener to Group F play at the Rio Olympics.
Janine Beckie opened the scoring for Canada just 20 seconds into the match, the fastest goal in Olympic women’s soccer history. It was a sloppy play from Australia at the back, and high pressure from the Canadians forced a turnover to Christine Sinclair, who served a perfect cross for Beckie. Beckie slotted the ball in the back of the net past keeper Lydia Williams.
Canada made more Olympic history in the 19th minute, though this time it wasn’t so positive. Shelina Zadorsky, the last defender back on the play, pulled down Australian striker Michelle Heyman and was given a red card for denying the obvious goal scoring opportunity. It was the fastest red card in Olympic women’s soccer history.
Canada brought on center back Rebecca Quinn in the 23rd minute in place of Melissa Tancredi for a defensive substitution.
The rest of the first half was a frantic affair, with Australia getting close to scoring on multiple occasions. Canadian goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe was very shaky coming out for balls in the air, but the Aussies were not able to capitalize on her unease.
After the break, Canada came out much more organized and were able to defend in numbers and take the sting out of an Australian team that were desperate for a goal.
After withstanding pressure from the Matildas, Canada had two great chances of their own in the 73rd and 77th minutes. Canada were awarded a penalty for what looked like a phantom handball call on Caitlin Foord in the 73rd minute. Beckie stepped up to the spot, but her penalty was a weak one, and Williams made the diving save to keep the score at 1-0.
A few minutes later, Fleming got in behind Australia’s back line and had a 1-on-1 with Williams, but the keeper was able to get a hand on Fleming’s shot, and defender Laura Alleway swept up the rebound on the goal-line before it could trickle into Australia’s goal.
But Canada broke through in the 80th minute. They counter attacked with a long ball from Jessie Fleming to Sinclair, who was alone in the middle of the park. Williams came way out of her net but was not able to get to the long ball before Sinclair, who took a touch around Williams. Sinclair was able to finish her chance to give Canada the 2-0 lead.
Australia used all of the attacking talent they could, with Lisa DeVanna and Kyah Simon brought on in the second half, but the they were not able to buy a goal, and this one ended 2-0.
Next up for Australia is a date with Germany on Saturday, while Canada will play Zimbabwe, sans Zadorsky, who will serve her one match suspension.