Work in Sports
Norway's golden goal dethrones United States
SYDNEY, Sept 28 (AFP) - Dagny Mellgren's golden goal gave Norway a dramatic 3-2 victory and the gold medal in the Olympic soccer tournament here Thursday, ending the United States' reign as the dominant force in the women's game
Mellgren - a second-half substitute - appeared to control the ball with her arm in the 12th minute of the extra period but was allowed fire a shot low into the corner that the US goalkeeper Siri Mullinix should have saved.
The result confirmed the Scandanavians' position as the nemisis of the US, who had previously been unbeaten in international competition since losing to Norway in the semi-final of the 1995 World Cup.
"We can claim to be the best side in the world now," said Norwegian coach Per-Mathias Hagmo.
"We have now beaten the US four times this year and China three times."
Tiffeny Milbrett's last minute header from Mia Hamm's cross had forced the extra period after Norway had taken a scarcely deserved lead in the 77th minute.
Mullinix was again at fault, colliding with defender Joy Fawcett when dealing with a regulation cross to allow Ragnhild Gulbranden's header to fly into an empty net.
But Norway's real hero was goalkeeper Bente Nordby, who made a string of second-half saves to keep the scores level as the US threatened to run riot.
"You need matchwinners and Bente is a match-winner," said Hagmo
"We were the better time in extra-time, we were the ones trying to create chances. We knew the US would tire and I told the players that it was our day."
US coach April Heinrichs paid tribute to the battling qualities of the Norwegians after seeing her team dominate the game but somehow end up with just silver medals.
"We have a deep respect for the Norwegians winning mentality - they are champions," she said.
"They kept their game plan simple and never gave up."
But she refused to criticise the golden goal format.
"I'm a big fan of it. There is no single better way to end a game of soccer," she said.
"We walked off the field with tears in our eyes but I am incredibly proud of my team. We played some magnificent football tonight. We only have silver but our game was golden."
The US had taken the lead as early as the fifth minute when Hamm broke into the penalty area and cut the ball back for Milbrett to drive into an unguarded net.
Milbrett went close again before Julie Foudy headed Shannon McMillan's cross against the bar.
But Norway equalised with their first attempt on goal a minute before the interval.
Defender Gro Especeth climbed above Kate Sobrero to plant a firm header in the net from Hege Riise' corner.
After the break the US piled forward and Nordby saved brilliantly from Milbrett and Hamm before Kristine Lilly spurned a great chance to put the Americans ahead midway through the half.
She fired at Nordby from point-blank range before hitting the rebound straight at Goeril Kringen, who was able to head the ball off the line.
Mullinix's blunder appeared to have gifted Norway victory but Milbrett pounced late to save the US before their tiring defenders were exposed by Mellgren.
Goalscorer Espeseth summed up the never-say-die attitude that kept the Norwegians in the game despite being thoroughly outplayed at times.
"When the US scored the first goal I thought not again," she said.
"Why should they win again?"
Earlier Germany secured the bronze medal with a 2-0 win over Brazil.