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Houghton's early goal puts Hope's women on the crest of a wave


Every Olympic Games has its moments of record-shattering achievement and Great Britain's women carved their own piece of history last night on a landmark occasion for the sport.

Defeating Brazil was a significant moment in itself as it confirmed their unlikely status as Group E winners and set up a meeting with Canada on Friday at the Ricoh Arena.

They deserve so much more than to be sent to Coventry. This was an inspired display against the fifth-best team in the world before a Wembley crowd of 70,584, which is comfortably the biggest ever attendance for a women's international in the UK and less than 6,000 short of the Olympic record set in 1996 by the United States, where the sport has far greater resonance.

The remarkable atmosphere inside Wembley had seemingly reached an impressive crescendo at kick-off only to go up a notch 92 seconds when Great Britain got off to the perfect start.

Brazil failed to clear their lines from a corner, giving Karen Carney the opportunity to find Stephanie Houghton and the Arsenal defender showed great composure to round goalkeeper Andreia and fire the ball home from an acute angle. It was Houghton's third goal in as many matches for Hope Powell's team.

With every forward pass cheered to the rafters, Great Britain were determined to seize the initiative and Cristiane atoned in defence with a vital interception denying captain Casey Stoney the chance to meet Carney's tempting cross.

Carney, Kelly Smith and Kim Little were pulling the strings in midfield as Great Britain maintained their intensity and, importantly, their advantage until half-time.

After the break, Eniola Aluko was clipped in the penalty area by Francielle when through on goal, yet referee Carol Anne Chenard only deemed the challenge worthy of a yellow card and not the red it deserved. But Smith failed to convert the spot-kick, meaning the game was left on a knife edge as it entered the final half hour.

Both sides threatened but Brazil were never able to exert any sustained pressure, leaving Great Britain to celebrate a famous win.