Work in Sports
Tied up again
Chinese keeper saves tie vs. U.S. with clutch save
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) -- At the final whistle of a 1-1 draw, the Chinese women's soccer players were jumping out of their skins. The Americans were straight-faced and stern.
"We made note of that," U.S. captain Julie Foudy said. "I just said to the team afterwards, they're celebrating and we're disappointed. And it was a tie. That tells you where we're at."
Sunday's much-anticipated Olympic rematch of last year's World Cup final, a big enough deal to get Chelsea Clinton to fly from Sydney to attend, produced another standoff.
Unlike the 0-0 game at the Rose Bowl, this was a first-round match that didn't call for overtime or a penalty shootout to break the tie, making for an unfulfilled finish that could only be resolved if these two teams meet again next week for the gold medal.
"Our standards are very high. We don't accept not winning," coach April Heinrichs said. "We felt we could have put that game away, and we'll come back even more determined next time."
Foudy scored for the United States, and Sun Wen tied it for China. Both teams are 1-0-1 in first-round play, and both need at least a draw in Wednesday's final group games to advance to the semifinals.
The United States will play Nigeria, while China faces Norway. The Norwegians beat Nigeria 3-1 Sunday.
There's still a good chance for another U.S.-China championship game, and the Americans would love to see it.
"You betcha," forward Tiffeny Milbrett said. "The great thing about China is they bring out the best in us."
Sunday's match produced two spectacular plays, both by Chinese players. One tied the game, the other prevented an American victory.
In the 67th minute, Chinese captain Sun launched a 33-yard free kick after a foul by Mia Hamm. Sun, her knee bandaged following a serious ligament injury earlier this year, placed the ball perfectly in the upper left hand corner of the net. All goalkeeper Siri Mullinix could do was deflect it off the underside of the crossbar.
"She's so good at that," Milbrett said. "I thought she was far enough out that we'd be safe. I don't how much further out you have to go to make sure you're not in her range."
Seven minutes later, the U.S. team had a chance to take the lead when defender Fan Yunjie's left hand blocked Milbrett's cross in the left side of the penalty box.
A penalty kick was awarded, and goalkeeper Gao Hong dived right to stop the attempt by Kristine Lilly. Gao's horizontal leap was the mirror image of Briana Scurry's decisive stop in the World Cup final penalty shootout.
Gao, known for her gamesmanship, smiled at Lilly and gestured before the kick. Lilly said she followed the same advice she used when she faced Gao at last year's World Cup final: Don't look.
"I didn't. I was focused on the ball. It didn't help, though," Lilly said. "I hit it where I wanted to, I didn't have enough room to get it by her before she got there."
Gao not only blocked Lilly's kick, but then also knocked away Cindy Parlow's follow-up as the Americans charged the net.
Foudy's goal, in the 38th minute, was set up by a 35-yard volley from Milbrett that Gao leaped to push over the crossbar. Shannon MacMillan then struck a perfect corner kick that sailed just beyond Gao's swinging right hand and onto the head of Foudy, who put the ball in the net for the captain's 38th international goal.
With the 1-0 lead, Heinrichs made an unusual move in the second half, replacing defender Brandi Chastain with forward Cindy Parlow. Heinrichs said she was hoping to put more pressure on China's defense, but the move backfired as the Chinese stepped up an attack that led to Sun's goal five minutes later.
First daughter Chelsea and Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala were at the game, but any cheering from the official U.S. box was drowned out by a sea of thousands of Chinese fans waving flags and chanting "Chi-na" at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
China started the same 11 players that started the World Cup final, and even the referee -- Nicole Petignat of Switzerland -- was the same. This time, the Chinese were much happier leaving the field.
"The players are very excited and joyous," coach Ma Yuanan said, "because they have strived very hard."
Norway 3, Nigeria 1
At Canberra, Norway stayed alive and knocked Nigeria out of medals contention.
The Norwegians bounced back from a 2-0 loss to the Americans as they got goals by Dagny Mellgren in the 22nd minute, Hege Riise on a penalty kick in the 61st and an injury time header by Marianne Pettersen.
Substitute Mercy Akide replied for Nigeria in the 78th.