Two early goals helped USA to a 3-1 win over New Zealand as the three-time champions bounced back from an opening-day scoreless draw against France at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup.
Ashley Sanchez and Mallory Pugh scored within the first eight minutes, but thoughts of a hefty scoreline dissipated as a resilient New Zealand stuck gamely to the task, ensuring the Stars and Stripes were made to work hard for the three points.
USA dominated the match, especially in the first half, but New Zealand slowly came back into the contest and jagged a goal back through Isabella Coombes with a quarter of an hour remaining. However, USA put the contest effectively out of reach five minutes later as substitute Ally Watt fired home on a breakaway, just a matter of moments after entering the fray.
The match could not have began any worse for New Zealand as a defensive error allowed Ashley Sanchez to easily score past an exposed Nadia Olla. Then USA captain Mallory Pugh doubled the advantage with a burst from midfield down the right, before firing in an unstoppable shot from just outside the penalty area.
USA had further opportunities to advance the scoreline, notably through their two early goalscorers. Pugh fired a loose ball over the crossbar from near the penalty spot, while Sanchez cracked an effort against the post from the edge of the penalty area after a cheeky dummy from the former.
Group C is tantalisingly poised followed the 2-2 draw between Ghana and France earlier in the day. USA are clear on four points going into their match against Ghana (one point), while New Zealand could qualify with just a draw against France.
Live Your Goals Player of the Match: Mallory Pugh (USA)