Nadeshiko break hosts' hearts
© Foto-net

Goals from Japanese pair Homare Sawa and Yuki Nagasato sent China PR out of the Women's Olympic Football Tournament in Qinhuangdao on Friday.

The game at the Olympic Sports Center Stadium was a meeting between two of Asia's biggest rivals and, as such, had a real derby feel to it. From the first whistle to last it was played at a frenetic pace; full of pride and passion, but with both teams not forgetting fair play. Unsurprisingly, the 28,459 crowd was right behind the hosts, but they had little to cheer about during the 90 minutes.

It was Japan who began brightest. With just five minutes on the clock, Shinobu Ohno ran at the Chinese defence, before unleashing a shot which crept just wide of the post. Ten minutes later, the Nadeshiko were 1-0 up, Aya Miyama delivering a corner from the left flank with Sawa towering above Zhang Ying to head home.

The stadium fell eerily silent, but the crowd quickly rallied behind their side. China enjoyed their best spell of the game in the 30 minutes before half-time, but it was still Japan who looked the more likely to score. Kinga and Sawa combined well before Nagasato was released, but she fired over from the edge of the box.

The miss seemed to give the hosts a bit of a kick-start. A misplaced back-pass from Hiromi Ikeda earned the Chinese a fortunate corner. Bi Yan whipped in the ball from the left and Han Duan headed it across goal to Zhang, who saw her attempt clawed away by the keeper. The ball bounced to Li Jie, but she was unable to keep her effort under the crossbar.

China had the majority of possession in the second half but failed to really threaten the Japanese goal. Another Bi corner found Han, whose attempt was blocked by Kozue Ando and this time it was Pu Wei who scooped the ball well over the bar.

Japan always looked able to break quickly, however, and that is how they doubled their advantage in the 79th minute. Ohno ran at the Chinese defence once again and slipped the ball to Nagasato, who returned the pass. She was squeezed out by Weng Xinzhi and Liu Huana, but the pair then collided. Nagasato capitalised on the indecision and fired home to make sure of her side's progression to the semi-finals.

Norio Sasaki's side now meet USA in a re-match of their Group G game, which they lost 1-0.