Sunday, July 15, 2007

U.S. WNT cap "Kristine Lilly Day" with a 1-0 win over Norway

On a date dubbed “Kristine Lilly Day” by Connecticut governor M. Jodi Rell, the U.S. Women’s National Team capped the festivities for the hometown star with a 1-0 victory over a pesky Norway squad Saturday evening at Rentschler Field.

Almost according to script, the match kicked off with the U.S. immediately grabbing Norway by the horns less than thirty seconds into the contest, when Lindsey Tarpley delivered a nice ball to Carli Lloyd inside the box. Lloyd then went full bore toward the Norway net before sending a high shot that glided over the crossbar, which put the Norwegians on notice before the match clock reached one minute.

Minutes later, Abby Wambach hunted down a ball lackadaisically handled by Marit Christensen and Siri Nordby deep within their own territory. Wambach pounced on the ball and crashed the box before tapping the shot toward keeper Christine Nilsen, who made the save.
While the Americans took charge of the match during the first ten minutes of action, possession began to draw even around the 19th minute, as Norway began to organize its attack after a slow start.

Nearing the midway point of the first half, the Americans had staged a handful of quality chances to break through with the first goal of the game. One such chance came when Tarpley took the ball toward the outer edge of the box and launched a bending shot that just barely missed the far post in the 21st minute.

The Americans threatened again in the 33rd minute, when Lilly air-mailed a beautiful ball toward Lloyd, who was stationed at the top of the box. Lloyd took one touch, loaded up, and fired a cracking shot that went wide of the right post, as the squad yet again narrowly missed on the opening goal.

The mirage of a potential game-breaker was reappeared once again in the 35th minute, when Nilsen made a potentially fatal mistake when she haphazardly trotted up toward the top edge of the box to play a dangerous ball. Tarpley immediately recognized the blunder, and proceeded to pick pocket Nilsen of the ball. The athletic forward and blew right past the helpless keeper, en route to a clear shot on goal before defender Ane Horpestad headed the ball away from net.

With the match surprisingly still even entering the second half, U.S. manager Greg Ryan inserted shifty forward Natasha Kai for Tarpley in an attempt to reinvigorate an attack that had been continually frustrated by a series of near misses.

Lilly tried to spark the attack by taking matters in her own hands in the 52nd minute, when she danced into the teeth of the Norwegian back line. The hometown hero then proceeded to shake her defender with a quick spin and turned toward goal before her shot was suffocated by two defenders.

As the proceedings reached the hour mark, and with the potent American attack continually stifled by Norway’s entrenched defenders, it appeared the best team in the world would have to dig just a bit deeper to if they were to finally break through.

With shovel firmly in hand, the U.S. did just that and dug deep off a set piece from the corner, as Lilly took a short pass off the corner from Kai, then crossed and outswinger from the right toward Lloyd, who positioned herself perfectly on the welcome mat of the Norway goal. Lloyd leaned forward and cleverly headed the ball well out of the reach of Nilsen for the goal, sending the home crowd of 9,957 into delirium.

Opening goal finally achieved, the Americans attempted to clamp down on their defending in order to protect the lead. However, the Norwegians did not go quietly into the night. In the 83rd minute, Norway’s Melissa Wiik raced deep into the American half and sent a deflected shot directly in the path of teammate Solveig Gulbrandsen, who tested keeper Hope Solo with tapped shot that was safely cradled out harm’s way.

Undeterred, the Norwegians attempted to locate the equalizer in the 88th minute off a corner kick, when Nordby sent a low cross into the mixer that was thumped away by Cat Whitehill before it reached its intended destination. Seconds later, Whitehill once again cleared out another menacing Norwegian pass in the vicinity of the box, thus safeguarding the 1-0 shutout win for the Americans.

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