Great Britain took home the first win of the Olympic tournament after defeating New Zealand 1-0 at Millenium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. The game’s only goal was scored by defender Stephanie Houghton on a free kick, struck right through a gap in New Zealand’s wall and past ill-positioned goalkeeper Jenny Bindon.
While New Zealand certainly had a few chances and dominated the first 10 minutes of the match, Team Great Britain looked confident for most of the match, even if at times one of the newest Scottish additions to the team wasn’t yet quite in sync with her English teammates. Kim Little would certainly like a second shot at her chance at the end of the first half in stoppage time, when she looked to set up Karen Carney right in front of goal rather than taking her own shot. Instead of a go-ahead goal right at the half, Great Britain was still looking for the opener as Little held her head in frustration.
Great Britain withstood some notable late chances from New Zealand. Sarah Gregorius went one-on-one with Karen Bardsley in the 72nd minute but lacked the finishing touch and delivered the ball into Bardsley’s waiting hands. Bardsley was forced to make an excellent save with only five minutes to go in regulation after Amber Hearn placed a shot right under the bar. Fortunately for Great Britain, that would be the last time Bardsley was truly tested in the match.
There were certainly some encouraging signs for Hope Powell’s side. The tag-team of Kelly Smith and Alex Scott was incredibly dangerous any time they were able to link up. Kelly Smith frequently drew double or triple teams, allowing Alex Scott to make penetrating runs into the New Zealand defense and get good looks at goal. The offensive plays displayed by White, Asante, Aluko, Yankey, and the power of Stephanie Houghton on set plays give Great Britain some depth and attacking options.
For New Zealand, while Ali Riley certainly had her moments in the game, the rest of the team needs to find better methods of service to allow her dominate the wing. And for all of the pointed comments from Great Britain during the pre-game interviews shown on BBC, New Zealand did not resort to physicality often. Encouraging signs for the Ferns, but still not enough to dig out the win.
Next for Great Britain is Cameroon, while New Zealand faces yet another difficult challenge when they take on Brazil. Both games are on Saturday, July 28.
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