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Great Britain 1 (Houghton 64)
New Zealand 0
A second half free kick by Steph Houghton gave Great Britain a winning start to their campaign in the 2012 Olympic Games at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
Hope Powell's side had passed up a number of chances in a game they dominated for long periods before the full back settled matters via a powerful strike.
The opening exchanges of the game were extremely nervous as both teams sought to settle down in sweltering conditions. New Zealand did look the livelier early on with Amber Hearn and Hannah Wilkinson looking sharp up front but it was Team GB who produced the first move of the game as Karen Carney produced a strong run before her cross was just too high in the middle for Kelly Smith.
Houghton fired a warning of what was to come later on when she drilled a free kick which was palmed away by Jenny Bindon in the New Zealand goal. From the resulting corner, Bindon punched weakly under pressure from Casey Stoney but recovered well to block Eniola Aluko's well hit shot from the loose ball.
Although their passing was a little tentative at times, GB continued to get on top and came even closer just after the hour. Aluko broke into the area before her far post cross picked out Anita Asante whose downward header beat Bindon but struck the post.
As the half wore on, GB frustrations began to grow as more chances went begging. Asante headed wide at the near post from a Smith corner and Alex Scott shot wide after cutting in from the right. Another pinpoint corner from Smith picked out Asante on the edge of the six yard area but again the midfielder's header went wide of the target.
The best chance of the first half came during injury time when Aluko slid a pass into the path of Kim Little in the area. Bindon seemed to commit herself to dive very early but Little elected to pass instead of shooting and Rebecca Smith was on hand to prevent the ball from reaching Smith.
GB made a change at the interval with Ellen White coming on in place of Little but the first opportunity after the break came at the other end, Hearn firing a long range free kick over the bar.
The pattern of the first half soon continued though with Alex Scott making another dangerous run forward but she was denied by a good block from Ali Riley. Moments later White was sent through on goal by a superb pass from Carney but the pacey Riley came to her side's rescue once again, getting back to deny the striker as she looked poised to shoot.
However the breakthrough finally came when GB were awarded a free kick 25 yards from goal after Hearn had tripped Alex Scott. This time, Houghton stepped up to drive a powerful shot through the New Zealand wall and into the corner of the net, beating Bindon before she had a chance to move.
A tiring Smith was replaced five minutes after the goal and GB missed her ability to hold the ball up front after this point and they began to sit back on their lead. This almost led to disaster as Dieke and Stoney collided with each other, leaving Sarah Gregorius through on goal but the striker's shot was a tame one and Karen Bardsley was able to get down low and save.
The pace of the game slowed down dramatically as the heat took its toll on the two teams and GB were never really able to carve out a clear cut chance for a second goal. However they once again had to rely on Bardsley to preserve their lead late on, this time reacting well to turn a dipping shot by Hearn over the bar.
GB successfully ran down the clock from this point to give themselves the result they craved to kick off the campaign and victory over Cameroon at the same venue on Saturday would look sure to guarantee them a top two place in their group.
Great Britain: Karen Bardsley, Alex Scott, Steph Houghton, Jill Scott, Casey Stoney, Ifeoma Dieke, Karen Carney (sub Fara Williams 89mins), Anita Asante, Eniola Aluko, Kelly Smith (sub Rachel Yankey 69mins), Kim Little (sub Ellen White 45mins). Subs not used: Rachel Brown, Claire Rafferty, Sophie Bradley, Rachel Williams.
New Zealand: Jenny Bindon, Ria Percival, Katie Hoyle, Abby Erceg, Rebecca Smith, Ali Riley, Hayley Moorwood (sub Betsy Hassett 60mins), Amber Hearn, Sarah Gregorius, Kirsty Yallop (sub Annelie Longo 75mins), Hannah Wilkinson. Subs not used: Rebecca Rolls, Anna Green, Kristy Hill, Rebekah Stott, Rosie White.
Marta was on target twice as Brazil crushed Cameroon 5-0 in the other Group E match at the Millennium Stadium. Francielle, Renata Costa and Cristiane were also on target to send their side off to the perfect start.
In Group F, World Champions Japan opened up with a 2-1 victory over Canada at the City of Coventry Stadium. Nahomi Kawasumi and Aya Miyama gave Japan a two-goal lead at the break, with Melissa Tancredi pulling one back after the break. Sweden meanwhile made short work of South Africa, beating them 4-1. Nilla Fischer, Lisa Dahlqvist and Lotta Schelin ensured that the Swedes were 3-0 up inside the opening 21 minutes and although Portia Modise reduced the arrears on the hour, Schelin netted her second to round off the scoring.
Two of the competition favourites met each other at Hampden Park in Group G and the clash between the United States and France did not disappoint. Gaetene Thiney and Marie-Laure Delie send the French into an early two-goal lead but USA were level at the break thanks to Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan. Substitute Carli Lloyd then put the Americans ahead for the first time before Morgan wrapped up a 4-2 win with her second goal. The other game is hitting the headlines for the wrong reasons, a mix-up over their flag meaning a delay as Korea DPR protested before their match with Colombia. When play eventually got under way, two goals from Kim Song Hui earned Korea a 2-0 victory.
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