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Americans dejected after 1-1 draw with China, but are still near advancing to Olympic semifinals.

MELBOURNE, Australia (Sunday, September 17, 2000) -- The Chinese were elated, the Americans dejected.

From the post-game reaction, it would be easy to surmise that China had defeated the United States in their Summer Olympics Group F match. That wasn’t the case, though China had gained the equivalent of a moral victory, dodging a late penalty kick for a 1-1 draw before 58,061 at Melbourne Cricket Ground tonight.

Sydney 2000
Team W L T GF GA Pts
China 1 0 1 4 2 4
USA 1 0 1 3 1 4
Norway 1 1 0 3 3 3
Nigeria 0 2 0 2 6 0
Group F standings through 2 of 3 first round games

Sunday games
United States 1, China 1
China 3, Nigeria 1

"We made note of that," U.S. captain, midfielder and goal-scorer Julie Foudy said. "I just said to the team afterward, ‘They're celebrating and we're disappointed.’ And it was a tie. That tells you where we're at."

Foudy’s tally in the 38th minute was equalled by China’s striker Sun Wen, who nailed a spectacular free kick for a 1-1 score in the 67th minute. U.S. midfielder Kristine Lilly had her penalty kick saved by Chinese goalkeeper Gao Hong in the 74th minute.

"We were appropriately displeased and pleased at the same time," said U.S. coach April Heinrichs. "We created enough chances to win that game. We had wonderful opportunities to score and possessed the ball as well as I've seen this year against China. At the same time, we made some mistakes. Hopefully, we'll grow from them and do a lot of self-evaluating, and that's a healthy thing."

The two teams could very well meet again in the championship match. But first the U.S. (1-0-1, 4 points) must defeat or tie Kuwait (0-2, 0 points) with China (1-0-1, 4 points) in the same situation with Norway (1-1, 3 points) in Tuesday’s preliminary-round finales.

The top two teams from Group F will be favorites in the semifinals against the first two finishers in the weak Group E. If the Americans and Chinese finish ahead of wins or ties against Norway, a rematch of last year’s Women’s World Cup is possible. After 120 scoreless minute, the U.S. won that match with Brandi Chastain’s penalty kick providing a 5-4 preponderance in the tiebreaker.

"What we take from these two (Olympic) games is that we battled hard, played our kind of game against two world class opponents and came out with a win and a tie," said striker Tiffeny Milbrett of the USA's first two Olympic matches. "If we get the job done against Nigeria, then we're through."

China uses the same starting 11 from the WWC final, but it was the U.S. which jumped ahead 1-0 when Foudy headed home a Shannon MacMillan corner kick from the right side. Milbrett earned the corner after smacking a volley off a bouncing ball from 40-yards out, forcing Gao to push it over the crossbar.

MacMillan drilled the corner to the far post where Foudy, engulfed in a sea of red jerseys, elevated above four defenders in the six-yard box to head the ball into the lower right corner.

The U.S. tried hard to expand its advantage before halftime with three good chances. In the 40th minute, MacMillan chased down a pass in the right side of the box, then slid to send a delicate chip to the far post, but Lilly drove her shot straight into the arms of Gao from a sharp angle.

One minute later, Lilly weaved her way through two Chinese defenders in the left side of the box and struck a low, 15-yard hard shot with her right foot to require a solid diving save from Gao.

In the 43rd minute, MacMillan spun another cross in from the right flank, bending the ball behind the defense as forward Mia Hamm launched herself in the air to attempt a header, but a lunging Chinese boot got a piece of the ball, causing Hamm's to nod the ball over the end line.

China buzzed around the U.S. attacking third the entire match, only to be repelled by U.S. back line of Chastain, Kate Sobrero, Joy Fawcett and Christie Pearce which limited China to five shots on goal. Still, there was little that could be done to stop Sun’s 33-yard direct kick in the 67th minute that tied the affair at 1-1. U.S. keeper Siri Mullinix flew to the upper corner and got half a palm on the ball, she could not turn it outside the net as it hit the underside of the crossbar and fell into the goal.

"She's so good at that," Milbrett said. "I thought she was far enough out that we'd be safe. I don't how much further out you have to go to make sure you're not in her range."

China's goal ignited a spark and the Americans weathered several forays before striking back. Lilly released Milbrett inside the left side of the box with a crafty pass. Defender Fan Yunjie slid for a tackle, but stopped the pass with her left hand. Swiss referee Nicole Petignat, the same women who had officiated the 1999 WWC final, definitively awarded the penalty kick.

Lilly drove her shot hard to her left, but Gao guessed correctly and dove to her right post to bat the shot down. Charging forward Cindy Parlow got a foot on the rebound, but Gao stretched from the ground to make a point-blank save.

"I was focused on the ball. It didn't help, though," Lilly said. "I hit it where I wanted to, I didn't have enough room to get it by her before she got there."

China made a run at a winning goal near the end of the match, but the U.S. repelled the onslaught, then launched a sortie of its own, producing three scoring chances in the final three minutes. In the 88th minute, Parlow cracked a shot that went right to Gao.

One minute later, Milbrett struck from outside the box, but Gao was there to snag the shot which was headed high into the upper right corner. Finally, after a scramble inside the box, Milbrett's header in the 90th minute was too soft and floated into the waiting arms of Gao.

"The players are very excited and joyous because they have strived very hard," China’s coach Ma Yuanan said.

It was a match filled with attacking ebb and flow as each team came at the other in waves. In the end, the U.S outshot China 18-6, forcing Gao to make 12 saves.

"I think we did some really good things offensively," Hamm said. "We got the ball wide and attacked the flanks and you can't say enough about our defense, they are playing exceptionally well. That goal by Sun Wen, well, that's why she is the player that she is. Siri did an unbelievable job just to get a hand on it."

Of the six matches the U.S. and China have played during the 1995 Women's World Cup, 1996 Olympics, 1999 WWC and 2000 Olympics, four have ended in ties. The U.S. registered a victory over China in the 1996 gold-medal game and a 2-0 decision in the third-place match of the 1995 WWC. And, most dramatically, the Americans won the tiebreaker after the 0-0 tie with China in last summer’s World Cup title match.

China is 1-0-2 against the U.S. in 2000. "China is just a marvelous attacking team," Heinrichs said. "They have tremendous possession and are so very crafty, difficult and unpredictable. Without question, they bring out the best in us."

In the other Group F match, Norway dropped Nigeria 3-1.

United States 1, China 1

Lineups: United States - Siri Mullinix, Christie Pearce, Joy Fawcett, Kate Sobrero, Brandi Chastain (Cindy Parlow 62), Kristine Lilly, Julie Foudy, Lorrie Fair, Shannon MacMillan (Nikki Serlenga 80), Tiffeny Milbrett, Mia Hamm. China - Gao Hong, Wang Liping, Fan Yunjie, Bai Jie, Zhao Lihong, Jin Yan (Zhang Ouying 61), Sun Wen, Liu Ailing, Pu Wei, Wen Lirong, Liu Ying.

Scoring:
United States - Foudy (MacMillan) 38.
Chicago - Sun Wen (unassisted) 67.

Shots: United States 18, China 6. Shots on goal: United States 13, China 5. Saves: United States 4, China 12. Fouls: United States 13, China 16. Offside: United States 3, China 7. Yellow card cautions: United States - Hamm 67; China Fan 73.

Referee: Nicole Petignat (Switzerland). Assistant referees: Margaret Fox (New Zealand), Marie Svanstroem (Sweden). Attendance: 58,061 at Melbourne (Australia) Cricket Ground. Weather: Crisp, clear, breezy, 66 degrees.

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