Sinclair’s penalty kick in stoppage time lifts Canada in Women’s World Cup opener

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EDMONTON, Alberta – Hosts Canada kicked off the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup with a 1-0 win over China in front of a packed crowd of 53,058 rabid fans at Commonwealth Stadium. The hosts carried the momentum from the spectators and earned a penalty in second-half stoppage time and captain Christine Sinclair stepped up to finish.

Canada created the majority of scoring opportunities and held the possession advantage. Adriana Leon earned the late penalty after taking a forearm to the face from a Chinese defender.

“Yeah it was a frustrating game,” Sinclair said. “We knew heading into the game that China, their going to be a tough team to breakdown. They tend to drop off and sort of let the other team have the problem of possession. We created some good chances, we didn’t finish them and the pressure sort of started to mount. A great result for us. I felt like they were waisting time from the kickoff. Playing for a tie so it was nice to get one in the back of the net at the end.”

[THREE THINGS LEARNED: Ugly put enough for Canada in opener]

Canada attacked China right from the first whistle. Sophie Schmidt’s early free kick from the left flank found Kadeisha Buchanan open near the far back post. Buchanan had a pair of shots on target that goalkeeper Wang Fei was quick to save.

Sinclair broke through the young China back-line and fired a tough shot on target from a difficult angle. Fei Wang was again in great position to turn aside Canada. The Red clad Canadians controlled the opening 15 minutes of the match.

[MORE: Complete coverage of 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup]

China almost caught Canada and specifically, Lauren Sesselmann, napping in the 18th minute. The usually sound center back coughed up the ball to Gu Yasha in the Canada box. An alert Erin McLeod came rushing out of her net to stop Gu before she could shoot or pass to her wide open teammate. The Sesselmann error gave China a spark and moments later they almost scored.

“I think we played nervous,” McLeod said. “We never really calmed down for most of the game, so our quality dipped. I think we’re lucky to come out with a win. We came out with 3-points and that’s what we’re going to focus on. Our goal is to be the team that grows the most throughout the tournament and we will definitely grow a lot of that game.”

China was awarded a free kick on the outside corner of the left flank. From well beyond distance, Wang Lisi stepped up and delivered a booming strike that hammered off the crossbar in the 22nd minute. McLeod leaped and managed to get a finger to the ball. Canada escaped what surely would have been a shock to the system had China capitalized from their opportunity.

Josee Belanger earned the start for Canada at right back and did not look out of place in the first 45 minutes. She was great defensively and was also able to get forward and add to the Canada attack, including a 26th minute shot off the crossbar.

The opening pace that accompanied the first few minutes of the match slowly came to a halt as both sides settled in. China looked more comfortable against Canada and the hosts continued to create chances without finishing. Heading into the half, Canada was pushing all the right buttons without finding a goal. China did well to whether the early Canada pressure.

Coach Wei Hao made his first substitution just before the interval. An injured Wang Lisi was replaced by Peng Han.

Hao wasn’t overly pleased with his team’s performance or the condition of the pitch.

“The match was very hard because we only played on this turf once before and it was hot. I don’t think we gave our best,” he said.

The penalty decision went against China. However, Hao took the high road and did not place blame on the referee. His team caught a bad break and on this day it just wasn’t in the stars for China.

“We respect all the rules whether it’s fair or not. We respect all the referees judgement.”

The second half kicked with much of the same strategy and tactics from China. If the plan was organized blocking and frustration, coach Hao Wei had a perfect formula against 8th-ranked Canada. Sinclair, Melissa Tancredi and Jonelle Filigno had trouble connecting with the midfield and fullbacks from Canada going forward.

Allysha Chapman and Josee Belanger both looked lively running up and down the flanks, but they weren’t able to connect with a cross or corner in the China box. Whenever Canada got forward and looked to make a play near the Chinese goal. There was always two or three players in white ready to swarm the opposition. Canada was not quick enough in making adjustments.

Herdman’s first substitution came in the 60th minute when Filigno was replaced by midfielder Kaylyn Kyle. Canada quickly made another substitution in the 70th minute with the injection of 17-year-old Jessie Fleming for Desiree Scott.

Sensing that a goal could dramatically change the match, Schmidt and Sinclair worked a lovely give-and-go. Sinclair found herself open and sent a well timed shot on target. Her effort did not appear to trouble Wang Fei. The crowd — a record for a Canadian national team match — was hoping and wishing for a Canadian marker, and they got their wish deep into stoppage time.

Leon was tripped up in the China box and referee Kateryna Monzul made no hesitation in pointing to the spot. With the roar of the crowd behind her, captain Sinclair stepped up and delivered a calm and cool penalty to lift Canada.

The hosts almost got a shock to the system from the upstart Chinese team. If not for a lucky break, this could have easily been a disappointing draw for Canada.

“It was by far the best atmosphere I’ve ever played in here in Canada,” Sinclair said. “They were loud. I really thought the last 10-15 minutes of the game they gave us that extra boost. It was incredible to get a result for them.”

The hosts almost got a shock to the system from the upstart Chinese team. If not for a lucky break, this could have easily been a disappointing draw for Canada. But Sinclair and Canada got a much needed assist from the Canadian faithful and she talked about how it helped immensely.

“I know that we were getting in their end more and we were going a little bit more direct. We were trying to put more heat on them, and I had a feeling. When she pointed to that PK spot I felt like I could breath for the first time in the whole game.”

Canada Starting XI: Erin McLeod; Allysha Chapman, Lauren Sesselmann, Kadeisha Buchanan, Josee Belanger; Desiree Scott (Jessie Fleming 70), Ashley Lawrence, Sophie Schmidt; Jonelle Filigno (Kaylyn Kyle 60); Christine Sinclair(C), Melissa Tancredi (Adriana Leon 76). (4-3-3)

China PR Starting XI: Wang Fei; Liu Shanshan, Wu Haiyan (C), Li Dongna, Wang Shanshan, Li Ying (Zhao Lina 61), Rong Rong, Gu Yasha (Ma Jun 87), Tan Ruyin, Wang Lisi (Han Peng 42), Ren Guixin.

Americans Abroad: Chandler, Gooch score; Reyna, Vassilev debut

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The bar for the best weekend for Americans abroad in 2020 has been set.

After months with the under-19 side, 18-year-old Giovanni Reyna made his debut with Borussia Dortmund on Saturday. In England, Indiana Vassilev, 18, did exactly the same for Aston Villa, becoming the second youngest American to play in the Premier League.

Established Americans abroad like Timothy Chandler scored Eintracht Frankfurt’s match winner, while Lynden Gooch struck from distance for Sunderland in England’s League One.

Here is a list of several other USMNT affiliates making a name for themselves (or not) abroad this weekend.

Premier League

Christian Pulisic, Chelsea — The USMNT star continues to recover from an abductor injury.

DeAndre Yedlin, Newcastle — Yedlin is also recovering from an injury, and did not dress for Newcastle on Saturday.

Indiana Vassilev, Aston Villa – The 18-year-old came off the bench and played 23 minutes in his Premier League debut for Aston Villa. Villa drew 1-1 with Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday.

EFL Championship

Duane Holmes, Derby County — Holmes played 90 minutes in Derby’s 1-0 win over Hull City on Saturday.

Antonee Robinson, Wigan Athletic — Robinson started and played 90 minutes in Wigan’s 2-1 loss to Swansea City on Saturday.

Matt Miazga, Reading (loan from Chelsea) — The 24-year-old dressed but didn’t feature in Reading’s 2-0 loss to Millwall.

Eric Lichaj, Hull City — The Tigers’ defender started and played for Hull.

Geoff Cameron, QPR — The 34-year-old defender played 90 minutes in QPR’s 1-0 victory ver Leeds United on Saturday.

Tim Ream, Fulham — Ream started and played 90 minutes in Fulham’s 1-0 win over Middlesbrough.

Ligue 1

Timothy Weah, Lille — Weah and Lille were inactive this weekend.

Theoson Jordan-Siebatcheu, Rennes — Jordon-Siebatcheu and Rennes were inactive this weekend. 

Eredivisie

Haji Wright, VVV-Venlo — Wright came off the bench and played five minutes in Venlo’s 1-1 draw with PSV.

Sergino Dest, Ajax — Dest dressed but didn’t feature for Ajax over the weekend. It’s been an on-and-off cycle for the fullback in Holland’s top-flight.

Desevio Payne, FC Emmen — The U-23 MNT fullback is injured and didn’t feature for FC Emmen.

Bundesliga

Timmy Chandler, Eintracht Frankfurt — The fullback played 90 minutes and scored Frankfurt’s match-winning goal on Saturday against Hoffenheim. 

Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig — Adams started and played 86 minutes in Leipzig’s 3-1 win over Union Berlin. The midfielder completed 84 percent of his passes.

Weston McKennie, Schalke — McKennie is still having some setbacks from his shoulder injury. The midfielder didn’t dress for Schalke due to fitness issues over the weekend.

Zack Steffen, Fortuna Dusseldorf — Steffen is inactive with an injury.

Alfredo Morales, Fortuna Dusseldorf Morales started and played 71 minutes in Fortuna’s 1-0 loss to Werder Bremen.

Josh Sargent, Werder Bremen  The 19-year-old started and played 86 minutes on Saturday. It’s refreshing to see Sargent back on the field, getting regular playing time after the injury.

Fabian Johnson, Borussia Mönchengladbach Johnson was on Mönchengladbach’s bench but didn’t play.

Honorable Mentions

Lynden Gooch, Sunderland — Gooch has been superlative for Sunderland lately, and on Saturday, he was rewarded with this match-deciding goal:

Ian Harkes, Dundee United — Harkes continues to grind it out in Scotland. On Sunday, he registered an assist in Dundee United’s 2-2 draw with Hibernian. 

Mexicans Abroad: Jimenez makes Wolves history; Guardado assists in Betis win

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On what was perhaps Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez’s last weekend in Europe, Raul Jimenez made it clear that he is ready to carry on the mantle as Mexico’s marquee striker in the old continent.

The 28-year-old’s double made him Wolverhampton Wanderer’s Premier League all-time leading goalscorer, surpassing Steven Fletcher‘s record of 22 goals in just 61 appearances.

Meanwhile in Spain, Andres Guardado continues to add remarkable chapters to his never-ending European photo book, recording an assist in Real Betis’ 3-0 thumping of Real Sociedad.

Here is a list of several other Mexico national team affiliates making a name for themselves (or not) outside of Mexico this weekend.


Premier League

Raul Jimenez, Wolverhampton Wanderers —  Not only did Jimenez boost his league goalscoring tally to the double digits on Saturday, but he also became Wolves’ Premier League all-time goalscorer. The Mexican is indispensable for the Midlands side – well worth the club-record $33-million investment.

La Liga

Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, Sevilla — Chicharito did not make the trip with Sevilla to the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday. On Friday, Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl reported that Los Angeles Galaxy have signed the 31-year-old. An official announcement from the MLS side is expected in the coming days.

Hector Herrera, Atletico Madrid — Herrera started and played 43 minutes in Los Colchoneros’ rare, 2-0 loss to Eibar on Saturday. Atletico are now eight points behind leaders Barcelona and second-best Real Madrid.

Andres Guardado, Real Betis —  Guardado played all 90 minutes and recorded an assist in Betis’ trashing of Real Sociedad. The midfielder also earned a yellow card in the 23rd minute.

Diego Lainez, Real Betis — The 19-year-old dressed but remained on the bench for Betis. 

Nestor Araujo, Celta Vigo — Araujo started and played 90 minutes in Celta’s 1-1 draw with Athletic Bilbao. The defender recorded 11 clearances, two interceptions, and earned a yellow card.

Serie A

Hirving “Chucky” Lozano, Napoli —  As Napoli’s continues to suffer under Gennaro Gattuso, so does Chucky. The frenetic winger saw just 26 minutes of playing time in Napoli’s 2-0 loss to Fiorentina on Saturday. Gattuso, however, may be on his was out as reports indicated that he’s considering resigning after just 35 days at the helm.

Primeira Liga

Jesus “Tecatito” Corona, FC Porto — Tecatito started and played all 90 minutes in Porto’s 2-1 loss to Braga on Saturday. The Dragons trail league leaders Benfica by seven points.

Eredivisie

Erick Gutierrez, PSV Eindhoven —  Gutierrez dressed but remained on the bench for PSV on Saturday.

Edson Alvarez, Ajax — Alvarez dressed but remained on the bench for Ajax on Sunday.

Jupiler Pro League

Omar Govea, Zulte Waregem — Govea started and played 90 minutes in Zulte’s 3-0 loss to KRC Genk.

Elsewhere around the globe:

Pedro Arce, Panionios –  Panionios were inactive over the weekend.

Gerardo Ramirez Alonso, Roda JC – Ramirez Alonso and Roda JC take on Jong FC Utrecht on Monday.

Unhappy reunion for Klinsmann as Bayern beats Hertha 4-0

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BERLIN (AP) Jurgen Klinsmann endured an unhappy reunion with Bayern Munich as his former protege Thomas Muller started a 4-0 Bundesliga rout of his Hertha Berlin team.

“It was nice to see him again but of course even nicer to win,” Muller said after Sunday’s victory lifted Bayern to second place, four points behind Leipzig.

Klinsmann gave Muller the first of his so far 336 Bundesliga appearances when he brought on the then 18-year-old for the last 10 minutes of a 2-2 draw with Hamburger SV on the opening day of the 2008-09 season. Klinsmann was fired as Bayern coach in April 2009 as its title hopes faded.

But Muller has only fond memories of his mentor, who later went on to be United States coach.

“I have a special relationship with Jurgen Klinsmann. He made me a professional. I still have the mailbox message from when he called me up for the start of training with the professionals,” Muller said. “He gave me my chance to earn my spurs. He put me straight in. He was my first coach.”

Klinsmann was only cleared to face his former club on Saturday after the German soccer federation and league confirmed they received missing documents for his coaching license.

But Klinsmann, who also played for Bayern between 1995-97 and coached Germany at the 2006 World Cup, could only watch as his team was completely outplayed in the second half.

Hertha showed little initiative going forward and finally paid the price for sitting back when Muller rifled in from close range.

“The first goal opened the game,” said Klinsmann, who had been hoping to extend Hertha’s unbeaten run to five games.

The visitors thought they had another goal minutes later, but Robert Lewandowski’s goal was ruled out through VAR for heading the ball out of Rune Jarstein’s hands.

Lewandowski finally got his goal from the penalty spot in the 72nd after Lukas Klunter tugged Leon Goretzka’s arm.

“The turning point was the penalty,” said Klinsmann, who felt it was a harsh decision.

Thiago Alcantara sealed the result three minutes later with a brilliant strike in off the underside of the bar after Goretzka sent him through, and Ivan Perisic headed in Muller’s cross in the 84th.

Bayern had been missing defenders Niklas Sule, Lucas Hernandez and Javi Martinez through injury, with forward Kingsley Coman also out and midfielder Joshua Kimmich suspended. Canadian teen Alphonso Davies made his 10th consecutive league start.

Santiago Ascacibar started for his Hertha debut after his winter transfer from second-division Stuttgart. The combative Argentine is Hertha’s first signing following financier Lars Windhorst’s investment of $250 million in the club.

Also Sunday, Bayer Leverkusen won 4-1 at bottom side Paderborn to move sixth.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Ciaran Fahey on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cfaheyAP

La Liga roundup: Messi scores, wins game in Setien’s Barcelona debut (video)

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Barcelona’s vintage playing style in their 1-0 win over Granada highlights La Liga’s Sunday action.

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Barcelona 1-0 Granda

With a goal from Lionel Messi against an iron-willed Granada, Barcelona are back at the top of La Liga.

The win is the club’s first under Quique Setien, who debuted as the Catalans manager after replacing Ernesto Valverde.

Barcelona rolled back to the years of Pep Guardiola‘s tiki-taka, as they culminated the game with 83 percent possession and completed 1005 passes. That said, Granda – playing  with 10 men from the 69h minute on – were bulletproof until the 76th minute. Messi gently pushed the ball with his weak foot, finishing what had been a series of fluid, build-up passing.

Setien deployed a nuanced 3-4-3 variation – far from Valverde’s 4-3-3 formation that ended up costing him his job after losing to Atletico Madrid in the Super Copa semifinals.

Players like Sergio Busquets were asked about the distinct styles, but he was candidly opposed to comparing the managers and their philosophies.

“We were a solid team. We had control of the ball. They created little against us,” he told Movistar. “It’s true that we struggled when they dropped deep but, in general terms, the team played a good game.

“It’s not about comparing. Every coach has his style and his way of seeing football. You’ll see what Setien asks us to do. We’re not going to reveal it. We’re delighted with what Ernesto did and we’re delighted with Setien.”

With Real Madrid and Atletico right behind, the defending champions have a long way to go this season. They’ll have to build on the win and, more importantly, further deepen their chemistry under the ex-Real Betis boss. Integrating winter signings into the fold might present itself as a challenge, too.

But one thing is certain: Barcelona can still play like they did back in their glory days. If that sticks, a lot can happen.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Mallorca 4-1 Valencia

Real Betis 3-0 Real Sociedad

Villarreal 1-2 Espanyol

Athletic Bilbao 1-1 Celta Vigo