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Turnabout is fair play: China triumphs 2-1 on injury-time tally.

By Gary Davidson
SoccerTimes

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.Y. (Sunday, April 25, 1999) -- On Thursday, the United States women's national team experienced the thrill of victory. Today, it was the agony of defeat.

Three days after Tisha Venturini's goal two minutes into injury time gave the U.S. a 2-1 decision in Hershey, Pa, the Chinese returned the favor. Reserve Zhang Ouying found net three minutes into extra time to provide a 2-1 triumph over the Americans before 23,765 at Giants Stadium.

"It's tough because we were pushing forward obviously to get a goal," said central defender Carla Overbeck on the winning tally. "We're susceptible to counterattacks when we do that. We probably weren't in a good defensive shape. They got behind us and finished like a good team would . . . That's our style - attack, attack, attack -- and we're trying to get away from that. That's why we've added another defender. Instead of playing with three, we're playing with four. And we're still trying to perfect the system. That happens. As we evolve as a team, maybe we need to work on our shape more defensively."

The setback snapped a 50-match unbeaten streak on home soil for the U.S. (8-2-1 in 1999) whose only other loss this year was 2-1 to China March 20 in the Algarve Cup title match in Loule, Portugal.

"Obviously, this was a very disappointing loss for the U.S., but right now China's the best it's ever been," coach Tony DiCicco said. "We left the game plan a bit. We were just sending everybody forward like we were losing the game. That's a credit to this team. To them, a tie is a loss, but we can learn from that we can keep enough of a shape in the back that we don't give them what they had."

What was most disturbing to the U.S. side was its usually steady defense permitted not one, but two clear runs at goal. In the 92d minute, Zhang, an 82d minute substitute, slipped behind central defender Carla Overbeck to receive a pass only to be stopped by sliding goalkeeper Briana Scurry. A minute later, there was nothing Scurry could do.

Overbeck tried to get a foot on Bai Jie's long cross, but the ball skipped right to Zhang, who carried, gave a slight fake, and then put a low shot under the keeper 12 yards into the left corner of the net.

Zhang "is extremely fast," Overbeck said. "I thought I could just get my toe in at the end, but I couldn't do it."

China was the dominant team in the first half, continually find cracks in the right side of the U.S. defense, which was fortunate to only trail 1-0 at intermission. In the 14th minute, Liu Ailing sent a ball to the top left of the penalty area. Overbeck went for a header, but got hardly any of the ball, allowing Sun Wen to break free deep into the left side of the box. Scurry charge, but Sun buried a hard shot into the top far corner.

"This game was a totally different China than we saw from the last game," Overbeck said. "They forced us to change our shape defensively and we couldn't figure that out."

Three more times in the first half, China took solid shots from the left side of the box, barely missing on each one.

"It boils down to our quality of possession in the first half," DiCicco said. "If we possess the ball . . . they wind up playing more defense. Overall, I thought the first half was good, but we kind of had a period there of about 10 minutes where we struggled. And they were overloading that side and got two or three outstanding chances. We made an adjustment at half time and I thought we corrected that."

The Americans did play better after the break. In the 58th minute, U.S. striker Cindy Parlow sent a ball to midfielder Julie Foudy at the top left of the area. She won the battle for the ball with Wen Lirong and spun open into the left side of the box. Wang Liping closed for a tackle as Foudy shot and the ball spun off the defender's heel, curving into the right corner of the net past keeper Gao Hong, helpless to change her direction.

"I have short-term memory so I don't remember it that well, but I do remember I shot it on the left side," Foudy said. "I remember I got it on the left side. It was a deflection. I cut it back. Their defense shifted, so I cut it back and shot and got a lucky deflection."

China 2, United States 1

Lineups: United States - Briana Scurry, Joy Fawcett, Brandi Chastain (Christie Pearce 77), Kate Sobrero (Tiffany Roberts 46), Carla Overbeck, Julie Foudy (Tisha Venturini 89), Kristine Lilly, Michelle Akers, Miam Hamm, Cindy Parlow (Shannon MacMillan 68), Tiffeny Milbrett; China - Gao Hong, Wang Liping, Fan Yunjie, Xie Hullin, Wen Lirong, Zhao Lihong, Liu Ailing, Liu Ying (Pu Wie 54), Bai Jie, Sun Wen, Jin Yan (Zhang Ouying 82).

Scoring:
China - Sun (Liu) 14;
United States - Foudy (Parlow) 58;
China - Zhang 93+.

Shots: United States 16, China 8. Saves: United States 2, China 5. Corner kicks: United States 4, China 8. Fouls: United States 11, China 16. Offside: United States 7, China 4. Yellow card cautions: United States - Akers 34. China - Sun 4, Liu A. 45, Bai 78.

Referee: Kari Seitz (United States). Assistant referees: Robert Fereday (United States), Sharon Wheeler (United States). Attendance: 23,765 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. Weather: Sunny, 61 degrees.

©Copyright 1999 Davidson News Group. All Rights Reserved