Women's World Cup - Japan edge New Zealand

Mon, 27 Jun 16:02:00 2011

Japan beat New Zealand 2-1 in their Group B women's World Cup opener at the Rewirpower Stadium in Bochum.

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Underdogs New Zealand acquitted themselves incredibly well throughout the contest, but a moment of individual class from Aya Miyama made the difference in the latter stages.

Yuki Nagasato had opened the scoring early on, the New Zealanders were not behind long though with Amber Hearn levelling up just a few minutes later but it was Japan who prevailed thanks to a spectacular free-kick from Miyama.

Japan started the game at a frantic pace despite the searing heat in Bochum and New Zealand were rushed in midfield, so much so that Shinobu Ohno managed to pick up a loose pass from Hassett in the middle after just five minutes and chip a wonderful through-ball over the defence which Nagasato rushed on to. She had timed her run to perfection and was on to it in a flash, chipping the ball over the oncoming keeper Jenny Bindon.

The Japanese were dominating possession and it looked like it could be a walk in the park for them in their opening game, but New Zealand equalised just seven minutes later, completely against the run of play.

Ria Percival managed to break free down the right flank and wasted no time in delivering a deep cross to the back post, Ayumi Kaihori in the Japanese goal misjudged the flight and it landed right on the head of Hearn who was never going to miss from there.

It was a shock for the Japanese but they were almost immediately back in control of the game and squandered numerous chances as the half progressed, Sakaguchi missing the best of them as she crashed a volley against the upright from a Kinga cross.

New Zealand tried to get a foothold in the game by bringing on experienced midfielder Hayley Moorwood at half-time and it seemed to have a positive effect as they gained more possession, although did not threaten Kaihori's goal too often.

The game seemed to be slipping away from Japan until substitute Mana Iwabuchi made a snaking run through the middle of the New Zealand half only to be brought down by Rebecca Smith on the edge of the box warranting her a booking.

Miyama stepped up to take the kick and with apparent ease curled her effort into the net. Bindon perhaps could have done better as the shot was not right in the corner, but it was still a tremendous set-piece from the impressive Miyama.

New Zealand were all out of ideas by this stage and their constant long balls were not producing anything of significance.

Japan were the closer to scoring again as captain Homare Sawa and the lively Iwabuchi came close towards the end, but their misses did not prove costly as the favourites ran out winners.

Women Wcup Show: Japan - N

Phil Haigh - Follow me on Twitter @philhaigh_ / Eurosport

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