|Japan's Aya Miyama scores a goal against New Zealand during their Women's World Cup match in Bochum, Germany on Monday, June 27, 2011. (REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay)
BOCHUM, Germany -- Aya Miyama's free kick in the 68th minute helped Japan to a 2-1 win over New Zealand on Monday in Group B play at the Women's World Cup.
Both teams started fast with Japan taking the lead inside of six minutes through Yuki Nagasato, while New Zealand equalized six minutes later on a header from Amber Hearn.
But after Hearn's goal Japan's back line gave the All Whites no opportunity to add a second goal, and Miyama secured three vital points with a well-taken free kick.
Japan will next face Mexico on Friday, while New Zealand will meet England on the same day with the Kiwis still searching for their first World Cup win.
It didn't take Japan long to seize the advantage as Shinobu Ohno's through ball released Nagasato in behind the New Zealand defense.
Goalkeeper Jenny Bindon rushed off her line to meet Nagasato near the edge of the penalty area, but the Japanese striker was able to loft the ball over her head and into the back of the net.
The response from New Zealand was swift with a right-wing cross from Ria Percival finding the head of Hearn at the back post. She was able to rise up over a defender and nod the ball home from a few yards, but Japan took over from there.
The Japanese were denied by the post six minutes later when Yukari Kinga's cross was volleyed off the left upright by Mizuho Sakaguchi, but substitute Mana Iwabuchi came on in the second half and made a positive impact.
Iwabuchi first drew a foul near the edge of the penalty area that allowed Miyama to curl home the winning goal, while she also came close in the final minutes to adding to the lead with a long-range effort that sailed inches over the crossbar with the goalkeeper off her line.