New Zealand have made a dream start to their FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup campaign with a 2-0 win over Paraguay at Montreal's Olympic Stadium. The Kiwis have never progressed beyond the group stage at this tournament, but are now well placed to make history after goals from Emma Rolston and Steph Skilton took them alongside France at the top of Group D.
In a game of few chances, Skilton was a constant source of creativity and it was the New Zealand No12 who provided the first flash of inspiration after 25 minutes. Jinking away from a couple of challenges, she worked a clever one-two with Daisy Cleverley and fired in a shot that Christina Recalde did well to hold.
At the other end, we were also treated to some terrific play by Paraguay's Jessica Martinez, who twisted the New Zealand defence inside out with sharp changes of direction before feeding Tania Espinola. But while the striker's shot was firm enough, her sights were just out and the ball skidded just wide of the keeper's right-hand post.
Paraguay would live to rue that missed chance soon enough because, in the space of three minutes towards the end of the half, they had to pick the ball out of their net on two occasions. First Emma Rolston gave the Oceania's champions the lead with an excellent goal, collecting Skilton's pass on the right, stepping inside her marker and curling a left-foot shot just inside the post from the edge of the box. Then, with Los Albirrojas still reeling from that blow, New Zealand doubled their advantage.
Credit went to captain Katie Bowen, who chased down a seeming lost cause and somehow kept the ball in play at the byline with the defence attempting to usher it out of play. Her scooped cross then looped over the stranded Recalde, leaving Skilton with an open goal - and the strike her excellent overall play fully merited.
Their advantage established, New Zealand then fell back and rested on a well-organised, physically solid defence to keep the South Americans at bay. That they did with great aplomb, with Paraguay's best second-half effort coming when Silvana Romero's audacious 30-yard lob dropped just over the crossbar and on to the roof of the net.
New Zealand now go on to face a top-of-the-table clash against France, while Paraguay know that more dropped points against Costa Rica are sure to come at the cost of their place in the knockout stage.
Live Your Goals player of the match: Steph Skilton (NZL)