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Thorns defeat Gotham in penalties to win 2021 Challenge Cup

Photo copyright Lucas Muller.

After 90 minutes and seven rounds of penalty kicks, the Portland Thorns are the 2021 Challenge Cup Champions.

Thorns captain Christine Sinclair scored the opening goal of the match against NJ/NY Gotham FC at Portland’s own Providence Park. And it was an early goal too. In just the 8th minute, Gotham’s Carli Lloyd gave up the ball in the middle of the park to Sinclair, and she made no mistake when she placed her shot perfectly into the bottom of the goal.

Although the Thorns relentlessly pressured Gotham throughout the rest of the half, and even hit the post through a Lindsay Horan free kick, they couldn’t add to their lead.

Gotham seemed to find their footing after the halftime break, and broke through for the equalizer in the 61st minute. Lloyd redeemed her earlier giveaway, as she beat Becky Sauerbrunn to a cross and headed it past Thorns keeper Adrianna Franch.

Portland had a fantastic opportunity to take back the lead later in the half, when Simone Charley got her foot on a cross from Meghan Klingenberg, but Gotham defender Mandy Freeman was positioned perfectly to make the incredible goal line save.

The last ten minutes of the match were an end-to-end affair that saw both sides have fantastic looks on goal. Gotham FC keeper DiDi Haracic made a full stretch, fingertip save to deny Sinclair, while at the other end Gotham’s Ifeoma Onumonu directed her header just wide of Portland’s goal.

After 90 plus minutes, the match headed straight to penalty kicks. After six rounds and a crossbar miss for each team, the match needed a seventh and final round of penalties to be decided. Nahomi Kawasumi stepped up to the spot for Gotham, but Franch guessed correctly and made a diving save to give Portland the advantage. Then, Morgan Weaver sealed the deal for the Thorns with her converted penalty, sending Haracic in the opposite direction.



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