Fri, September 20, 2013

Sinclair's hat-trick not enough as U.S. scores with seconds left

Reds fall in extra time to miss out on gold medal game

By CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency


Canada's midfielder Kaylyn Kyle (L) reacts at the final whistle after losing 4-3 during the London 2012 Olympic Games. (AFP)


MANCHESTER - On a pitch that has been home to legends of the game, Canadian Christine Sinclair served up a performance, that, at least in terms of Canadian women’s soccer, was worthy of the legacy.

It still wasn’t enough, not on a night that promised so much for our national program and that ended with the Canadians crying in frustration.

It wasn’t enough in the face of a controversial delay-of-game call that led to the Americans’ tying the game in the 80th minute.

And it wasn’t enough in the face of an American team that once again showed why it is No. 1 in the world.

After American ace Abby Wambach tied the game on a bizarre series of events that started with that rare penalty, Alex Morgan won it on a header with seconds left in extra time to give the Americans a 4-3 win and leave the Canadians stunned and bitter with the outcome

Referee Christiana Pedersen of Norway awarded the U.S. an indirect kick from the top of the penalty box after the exceedingly rare delay-of-game call on Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod — they have six seconds to put the ball in play and McLeod was told she took 10 — and the kick hit Canada’s Marie-Eve Nault in the arm in the box.

Wambach converted the penalty. It was a momentum changer, a play Canadian soccer fans will dissect for years.

Canada’s Melissa Tancredi was furious after the game, hurling a water bottle to the turf.

When asked what she said to Pederson after the call, she said: “I hope you can sleep tonight and put on your American jersey because that’s who you played for today. I was honest.”

When told it was perhaps the best game in the history of women’s soccer, Tancredi replied: “That’s who we are and what we expecting to bring. It’s just unfortunate that every step we took somebody was making a decision on the other half to help the other team out.”

The Canadians remained on the field long after the game, seemingly pressed to the turf by the emotion of a game that will go down as the best in the relatively short history of women’s soccer.

“I didn’t want to leave because I couldn’t believe that’s what happened,” said Tancredi, who made a couple of brilliant plays to help set up Sinclair, whose stunning three goals gave Canada three leads in the game. “That was our game. That was our win to have and it was just taken away.”

Even American coach Pia Sundhage said she had never seen the call made, never mind in a game of such consequence.

The call was even tougher for the Canadians to take after Pedersen missed what looked like a hand ball in the U.S. penalty area just before the controversial chain of events at the Canadian end.

“It wasn’t like she purposely tried to slow the game down, where you see goalkeepers really cheating,” Canadian coach John Herdman said of the play that started the sequence of events that led to the tying goal. “She wasn’t doing that. She was waiting for our fullback to get tucked in. She’s got that to live with. We’ll move on from this. I wonder if she’ll be able to.”

The Americans will now face the world champions from Japan in the gold medal game Thursday. Canada will have to regroup and try and beat France for the bronze.

“Maybe the ref will wear a Canadian jersey next game,” said Sinclair. “We’re a resilient bunch. We’re a veteran team. We came here for a medal. It might not be the colour we want. I don’t think I’d want to be the team that plays us next.”

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

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