USA women's football wins 4th Olympics
LONDON, United Kingdom - The United States clinched a 2-1 victory over Japan in the Olympic women's football final on Thursday as Carli Lloyd's double gave her country a third successive gold medal and avenged last year's World Cup final defeat against the Asian giants.
Lloyd missed a penalty when the US lost that World Cup final in an agonising shoot-out, but she enjoyed sweet redemption at Wembley with a goal in each half and, although Japan's Yuki Ogimi got one back, the US held on to secure their fourth gold in women's football in the last five Olympics.
The US have enjoyed a remarkable run of Olympic success since women's football was introduced to the Games in 1996 and their triumph in London followed previous wins in Atlanta in 1996, Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008.
Even when they didn't win the tournament, in Sydney in 2000, they still went away with the silver medal and Japan, who had been attempting to become only the second team in history to hold the women's World Cup and Olympic titles, were unable to break their stranglehold despite an impressive display.
The chance to avenge a heartbreaking loss against Japan in Germany just over a year ago had propelled Pia Sundhage's US side towards the final and they finished the job thanks to Lloyd's goals, including a sublime solo effort, and a superb display from goalkeeper Hope Solo.
USA coach Pia Sundhage said "I'm really happy for the players. They put together a very good performance through the whole tournament. It's incredible.
"Carli Lloyd has gone from being out of the team a few weeks ago and has come in and made the difference. She has proven I was wrong (to leave her out) before the Olympics."
Japan manager Norio Sasaki added: "Even though we couldn't win this Olympics, we played very well and there is nothing we should be ashamed of.
"I'm very satisfied with how they played and very thankful to have a silver medal. I told the players they should all be proud of themselves."
Early on, Saki Kumagai made a hash of controlling a long ball on the edge of her own penalty area and Alex Morgan quickly took advantage, seizing possession before testing Japan goalkeeper Miho Fukumoto with a powerful strike.
It was Morgan who escaped again to create the opening goal for Lloyd in the eighth minute.
Tobin Heath picked out Morgan in the penalty area and the Seattle Sounders star showed tremendous poise under pressure as she recovered from a heavy first touch to clip over a teasing cross that Lloyd headed home from close-range.
That sparked a furious response from Japan.
Solo had to race off her line to bravely block Ogimi's shot. Then moments later the unmarked Ogimi powered a header goalwards, only for Solo to produce a superb tip onto the crossbar.
Japan also had a strong penalty appeal turned down when Heath handled a free-kick, but Azusa Iwashimizu nearly gifted the US a second goal when her attempted headed clearance cannoned off her own post.
The Asians kept probing and Shinobu Ohno displayed nimble feet to evade a crowd of defenders before slipping a pass to skipper Aya Miyama, whose rising shot crashed onto the bar.
Ohno went close with a curling shot from the edge of the penalty area just before half-time.
But the US doubled their lead thanks to a stunning individual effort from Lloyd in the 55th minute.
Taking possession midway inside the Japan half, Lloyd strode foward unchecked before smashing a ferocious strike past Fukumoto from 20 yards.
Japan still wouldn't concede defeat and they reduced the deficit in the 64th minute.
Homare Sawa's shot was cleared off the line by US captain Christie Rampone, but Sawa lunged for the rebound and her challenge diverted the ball towards Ogimi, who tapped-in from no more than two yards out.
Japan swept forward in search of an equaliser and Solo had to make one last crucial stop to preserve the victory as she turned away a strike from substitute Mana Iwabuchi. - Agence France-Presse