Norway scores early to beat US 2-0
QINHUANGDAO, China(AP) Norway jumped on the United States from the opening whistle, getting two goals in the first four minutes Wednesday to beat the U.S. women's soccer team 2-0 at the Beijing Olympics.
Norway looked the like the medal contender they're supposed to be, while the Americans looked never looked the part.
Leni Laursen Kaurin outmuscled U.S. defender Lori Chalupny to head the ball over charging goalkeeper Hope Solo and into an open net in the second minute.
Two minutes later, Melissa Wiik latched onto a deep pass on the right side after the U.S lost the ball in midfield. The Norwegian then outpaced U.S. captain Christie Rampone and curled a right-footed shot past Solo and just inside the far post.
``We are satisfied,'' Norway coach Bjarne Berntsen said. ``We are very grateful for the tremendous start we had in this game.''
``After the great start, I think we played a very, very good defensive game, and there were very few big chances for the United States.''
Norway, which handed the U.S. its only other Olympic loss in the gold medal match in Sydney in 2000, dominated the first half as a sluggish U.S. side seemed out of sync in the back and lacking creativity up front.
The loss was also the first for the U.S. under coach Pia Sundhage, who took over in November in the fallout of the team's third-place finish at the 2007 World Cup.
After the two early goals, Sundhage was up off the bench, clapping and urging her players on, and remained upbeat despite the loss.
``My glass is always half full, so for us it's a new experience to lose a game,'' she said, adding that she took heart with her team's aggressive play after the break.
``I'm happy that it's the first game and not the last, so we still have two more games to go, and we'll take out this part - the second half - for when we play against Japan and New Zealand.''
For Norway, the win was sweet revenge after two 4-0 losses to the U.S. this year, and provides the team with momentum as it seeks to reclaim the Olympic title it won in Sydney.
``It gives us a lot of self-confidence when we are winning 2-0 against the U.S.,'' Larsen Kaurin said.
She and Norway's two other talented forwards - Solveig Gulbrandsen and Wiik - proved a handful for the Americans. The trio looked dangerous as they sought to capitalize on the counter as the U.S. pushed forward in the second half.
But the U.S. also seemed to miss leading scorer Abby Wambach, who broke her left leg against Brazil in the team's final warm-up match ahead of the Summer Games.
Sundhage brought on striker Amy Rodriguez at halftime to replace midfielder Lindsay Tarpley and give the U.S. another attacker.
And while the Americans took the initiative, the Americans were still a step short on reaching crosses and never really mustered any serious challenges for Norway keeper Erika Skarboe.
Faint chants of ``USA! USA!'' rang out from time to time at the stadium in Qinhuangdao, but there wasn't much to cheer about.
The Americans' best chances came in the closing minutes. Shannon Boxx hit a hard, right-footed drive from 20 meters out in extra time, forcing Skarboe to dive right and push the ball over the bar.
``I think we came out with a lot of confidence and I think it was just a battle in the first five minutes and they got two goals on us, but I think we regrouped and we tried to get back together as a team,'' Christie Rampone said. ``I really believe in this team and I have the confidence that we'll bounce back.''
On Saturday, the U.S. plays Japan and Group G leader Norway takes on New Zealand.