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Veteran Lilly saves U.S. with key header save

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Posted: Sunday July 11, 1999 10:18 AM

  Lilly's not getting a big head after using her head to save the game for the U.S. Al Bello/Allsport

By Steve Almasy, CNN/SI

PASADENA, Calif. -- It's no mistake that Kristine Lilly made the other "save" that helped the United States win the 1999 Women's World Cup.

But as far as she's concerned, it was all in a day's work. It's not the first time she's had to knock a shot off the backline with her head. Once in college, she said, and in a U.S. match, too.

"But never in a World Cup," she said, smiling.

Not until Saturday with 9:48 gone in the first overtime. At a time when a goal would mean a world title. That's when Chinese defender Fan Yunjie hit a vicious header that soared past U.S. goalkeeper Briana Scurry. Lilly, stationed on the post to Scurry's to right, stepped into the ball and headed it out of danger.

The reason she was there in the first place is because she is a left-footed and because she isn't one of the team's best players in the air. She was there because she's not a good header.

How ironic.

But there was no irony in the fact that the woman who has played more international matches than anyone else on the planet would come up with a clutch play.

"The fact that Kristine Lilly made that play is no surprise to me," U.S. coach Tony DiCicco said. "She just always finds new ways of winning of game."

Lilly, a 5-4 midfielder, said it was her fulfilling her role.

"I ran over to the post for the kick," Lilly said. "Then when the Chinese player hit the corner, I shifted to help make Bri's goal smaller. She headed it right at me; I had to head it.

"It just didn't seem like a big thing at the time," she said.

In the official FIFA summary of the game, it lists each shot and the result. It simply says shot by No. 3. The result: blocked. It was more than a block; it was an incredible play by a player with a history for being in the right place. And definitely at the right time.

 
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