Houghton helps hosts kick off Games in style
Great Britain 1 New Zealand 0
Thursday 26 July 2012
David Beckham might not be playing football for Great Britain at the Olympics but he must have recognised the quality of the free-kick that won them their opening game yesterday. Team GB started the Olympic games with a 1-0 victory over New Zealand at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, thanks to one moment of brilliance from Steph Houghton.
Nearly half-way through the second half, Britain were frustrated, having missed more than enough chances to go ahead. But Alex Scott was fouled 25 yards from goal by Amber Hearn. Houghton, one of the four Arsenal players starting for Britain, stepped up to take the kick. She curled the ball with her right foot over the wall and into the far bottom corner. The veteran New Zealand goalkeeper, Jenny Bindon, could get nowhere near it.
It was a well-deserved lead after more than an hour of dominant, purposeful football from Hope Powell's team. They moved the ball quicker than New Zealand, stretching the play and creating more than enough chances to take the lead. As with any host nation playing their opening game, Britain suffered from early over-enthusiasm. Even the experienced Kelly Smith passed the ball out of play within three seconds, and the first real shot was when Eniola Aluko shot wildly over from 30 yards.
But Britain soon settled into supremacy, and when Houghton forced Bindon into a scrambling save with her long-range free-kick it was a warning of what was to come. The best chances were a sequence of three Anita Asante headers at the end of the first half. First Kim Little played through Aluko, a constant left-wing danger, who crossed to Asante at the far-post, only for her header to hit the upright. Two minutes later Asante headed wide from a corner kick, and she went close again three minutes later.
Alex Scott curled a shot narrowly wide, Little could not capitalise on a good position in the box, and then Scott was denied on the overlap by Ali Riley. Scott, the cavalier right-back from Arsenal, was increasingly influential and she was fouled for the free-kick which won Britain the game.
From there New Zealand only had one very good chance to equalise. Sarah Gregorius was played through on goal and should have made it 1-1 but could only shoot straight at the advancing Great Britain goalkeeper Karen Bardsley. Hearn tried a chip from the edge of the box in the final minutes but Bardsley was equal to tipping it over the bar. A New Zealand player nearly added a second for Britain when Ria Percival headed narrowly past her own goal. But Britain ultimately did not need it.
Woman of the match A Scott.
Match rating 5/10.
Referee K Seitz (US).
How Liverpool can catch Manchester United and secure Champions League football next season
Arsenal transfer news: Arsene Wenger reveals: 'We are not close to signing anybody. We need to lose some players'
Danny Jones: Keighley Cougars half-back dies after cardiac arrest during league game
Chelsea season player ratings: Grading the entire squad of the new Premier League champions
Floyd Mayweather beats Manny Pacquiao by a unanimous points decision - but Pacquiao thinks he should have won, saying 'he did nothing'
- 2 The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
- 4 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: SNP and its activists 'openly racist' towards the English, Farage says
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils