World Cup: China Beat Ghana
Uninspiring but clinical China held off a brave Ghanaian side 1-0 on 21 September in Carson, California. The match's lone goal came from the head of Chinese legend Sun Wen in the 29th minute. The Black Queens largely held their own but were rescued repeatedly by goalkeeper Memunatu Sulemana and will now be desperate for a victory over Russia. China take on Australia on 25 September back in the Home Depot Center. China looked the far brighter side in the early going. An 18-yard snapshot from outstanding striker Sun Wen forced Sulemana into a tricky save. (6’) The Asians continued to dictate the pattern of the first half, controlling possession and finding holes in the Ghanaian midfield. But the Africans hit back with some clever approach work of their own as the clock wore on. Liu Ying had a wonderful chance to open the scoring. After controlling a brilliant low cross from Sun, she burst into the area and fired from point-blank range. But Sulemana was again equal to the task, scrambling the ball around the post and further cementing her reputation as Africa’s best goalkeeper (18’). Ironically, it was Sulemana’s mistake that allowed the Chinese to finally breakthrough and open their account when the keeper misjudged Bai Jie’s floated cross from the left. As the ball spun over her outstretched arm, iconic striker Sun was there at the back post to nod home calmly (1-0, 29’). China kept pressing forward as the half ground on. But with the influential Pan Lina stretchered off and replaced after falling awkwardly on her knee, they were unable to raise their game and grab another goal before the interval. China came out in the second half and picked up right where they left off in the first – hunting for a second goal. But the Africans were not quite willing to roll over as Alberta Sackey looked dangerous and in the mood, running with determination at the Chinese defence. The Asians came close to scoring a quarter-hour into the period. Liu sent a long, lofted ball from midfield and Bai turned brilliantly with nothing between her and a goal but Sulemana. With time running out, the striker, who had started the match at left back, slipped her shot just inches wide of the far post (60’). Sun continued to put on a classy display. Sending some inch-perfect passes and getting into dangerous positions, she showed just why she is considered among the true best of the women’s game. And again Bai surged forward and looked dangerous for China. Taking advantage of a mix-up at the Ghanaian back line, she raced clean through on Sulemana, but could only watch as the big shot stopper dove to push the ball around the post (76’). In the end, China had to be content with a slim 1-0 win over the impressive Africans. Though they never looked their best, three points from their opening match will be a welcome development for the Steel Roses as they look to improve on their runners-up status at USA 1999.
Player of the Match: Elizabeth Baidu (GHA) Ghana opened their FIFA Women’s World Cup USA 2003 campaign with a courageous 1-0 loss to China and looked a much-improved side to the one that competed in the States four years ago and lost to the Steel Roses by a humiliating 7-0. Much of the cohesiveness and organisation can be chalked up to the fine play of defender Elizabeth Baidu. Constantly tackling back and holding the rearguard together, the player moved with skill and speed to keep the hot-favourite Asians to only a single goal over an action-packed 90 minutes. With the formidable figures of Sun Wen, Han Duan and Bai Jie running hard at the Ghanaian defence, several saving tackles from the Bud Light Player of the Match were crucial to the African outsiders’ survival. “Baidu’s performance reflected the general performance of the Ghana team,” said FIFA Technical Study Group member Sylvie Beliveau after the match. “She played a composed game and could certainly be a player to watch out for in the rest of the tournament.” With a powerful shot and a knack for free kicks, Baidu could be crucial to Ghanaian hopes of a first-ever spot in a finals second round.