Canucks, China share lead
© AFP

Over 52,000 fans were on hand in Tianjin on Saturday to cheer their beloved Steel Roses, who opened with a big win over Sweden three days earlier. Rather than an emphatic victory, the home supporters had to be content with a point as China and the debutante Canadians rode a 1-1 draw to shared-top of Group E of the Women's Olympic Football Tournament.

The match began at a cautious pace with both sides unwilling to commit too much forward. The outstanding Kara Lang tested the waters on the quarter-hour with a fine shot from distance that had had Zhang Yannu scrambling to grab the second attempt.

On the half hour, Canada's all-time top scorer Christine Sinclair signalled her intent. She slipped her marker but stumbled before she could have a strike at goal.

Four minutes later, the predatory forward made no mistake. Lang dinked the ball over the top of a flat Chinese defence and Sinclair took one touch before slotting calmly past Zhang (1-0).

China's response was swift, even without injured goal hero Han Duan. Three minutes after going down, Xu Yuan ran on to a defence-splitting ball from midfield from Lou Jiahui, rounded Canada keeper Erin McLeod and slipped the ball toward goal. Randee Hermus made a valiant effort to keep it from crossing the line, but the assistant referee had no doubt: a goal, all square (1-1).

With Sinclair still menacing the Chinese defence at the start of the second period, the diminutive Diana Metheson spurned a golden chance right in front of goal. Collecting a looping ball from Lang, she somehow conspired to scuff her shot wide with the goal begging.

Canuck pressure was beginning to tell and seconds after the miss, Lang took matters into her own hand. However, her shot from 18 yards splattered against the post rather than nestling in the back of the net.
On 71 minutes it was China's turn to miss a gilt-edged opportunity. Taking advantage of a mistake at the Canadian defence, Lou Jiahui failed to make proper contact with only the keeper to beat.

The last great chance fell for the hosts. Bi Yan's free kick picked out Xu Yuan, but the scorer couldn't make it two on the night as her near post header skipped off the top of the crossbar.

Both sides look likely to move on to the quarter-finals from Group E with four points each from two games, but nothing is yet certain in the section. Even point-less Argentina are still in with a shout. China next meet the Argentines in Qinhuangdao while the Canadians meet Sweden in Beijing.