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25 Jul 2012
London 2012 , IOC News , Football

Houghton nets winner for Great Britain - London 2012 - Football

Stephanie Houghton gave Great Britain a 1-0 win over New Zealand in the opening match of London 2012 in the women's Football competition in Cardiff.

In front of a 24,549-strong crowd, the 24-year-old curled home a superb second-half free-kick to give the home side a win that puts them on track for a place in the last eight of the 12-team competition.

For Houghton, it was fitting reward for the courage she showed to battle back from the disappointment of missing both the 2007 World Cup and 2009 European Championships through injury.

Even at last year's World Cup, her contribution was limited to just 39 minutes of the quarter-final defeat to France.

Watching from the stands, FIFA president Sepp Blatter must have been impressed at the cool manner of Houghton's finish, which secured a deserved win for Hope Powell's players, who take on Cameroon at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.

For 15 minutes, Great Britain found themselves on the back foot against a New Zealand side that extended their hosts' defensive capabilities, with HannahWilkinson a particular danger.

That opening period was halfway through before Powell's side managed their first effort on goal, a curling Houghton free-kick which was pushed away by JennyBindon.

It was a sign of what was to come. It was also the trigger for a more cohesive attacking display.

With Arsenal full-back Alex Scott starting to make her presence felt with regular forays forward from right-back, Great Britain began to get on top.

Scott failed to make the most of a decent chance after she had skipped into the box and Anita Asante was also off target with a couple of headers.

Asante went closest to breaking the deadlock with a move that took place almost in slow motion as Eniola Aluko's cross dropped to the far post.

There seemed little conviction in Asante's header. The direction was good though, with Bindon out of position and thankfully for New Zealand the post came to her rescue.

Great Britain continued to create chances following the introduction of Ellen White at half-time.

Jill Scott seemed to duck under Houghton's cross as Bindon somehow pushed it behind, then Scott had a goalbound effort blocked by Ali Riley.

When White lacked the pace to race away from the New Zealand defence, allowingRiley to block, it added to the hosts' frustrations and brought a fear their superiority was not going to be rewarded.

To the Cardiff crowd's delight, however, in the 64th minute Houghton kept her nerve with a 25-yard free-kick as she curled expertly into the bottom corner, with Bindonnowhere.

It was enough for Great Britain to secure a win that will be acknowledged far beyond the Welsh capital.

Powell said afterwards: 'The girls have made history today. It has been mentioned so much we couldn't ignore it. We were the first women's GB team ever and we won. That will never change now.

'We wanted to enjoy the experience. We recognised it was the first event and that it was an opportunity for the girls to showcase their talent.

'I wanted them to embrace it and have a go. As it happens, we did alright.'

Meanwhile, USA opened with a win after a 4-2 thriller against France, with Alex Morgan scoring twice.

Abby Wambach and Carli Lloyd were also on target for USA after Gaetane Thiney and Marie-Laure Delie had given France a two-goal lead.

USA manager Pia Sundhage said afterwards: 'At 2-0 down I thought about China (Beijing 2008 Games). We've done it before and we came back and won gold.

'This team is better than it was in 2008 and we managed to come back in the game. In the first game you can be a little bit nervous but we resolved that and came back.'

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