QINHUANGDAO, China (AFP) - Defending women's champions the United States scored a well-deserved 1-0 victory over Japan Saturday with Carli Lloyd poaching the decisive goal.
It was a crucial victory for Pia Sundhage's side after losing their opening Group G game 2-0 against Norway, the only team to finish ahead of the Americans in the past three Olympics.
Lloyd make the breakthrough in the 27th minute when she found herself unmarked on the edge of the box and launched a powerful drive into the top left-hand corner of the net.
"I am very happy to win the game against a technically good Japan side," said Sundhage of a country which has failed to beat the United States in the 21 matches they have played.
"I do not think luck won the game, today was about tactics. We are improving from one game to the other."
The Americans, without star striker Abby Wambach who broke a leg in July, should of had five or six, but poor finishing kept the game alive until the final whistle.
They now have three points from two games, while Japan have one point after drawing with New Zealand on Wednesday.
The Americans went close after seven minutes when Heather O'Reilly whipped in a low cross that beat goalkeeper Miho Fukomoto with defender Yukari Kinga fortunate not to score an own goal as she cleared over the bar.
Lindsay Tarpley forced a save from Fukomoto a minute later before Japan bounced back with an impressive five minute spell that put the US defence under intense pressure.
At the other end Lloyd nearly broke the deadlock in a goalmouth scramble while Homare Sawa produced a delicate chip that had American goalkeeper Hope Solo back-peddaling to tip over the bar.
The Americans ramped up the pressure in the second half with Shannon Boxx firing 20 yard drive over the bar on 55 minutes and Lloyd shaving the post with header soon after.
A second goal looked inevitable with Boxx forcing an acrobatic one-handed save from Fukomoto and Amy Rodriguez wasting a golden opportunity by wildly skying over the bar.
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