Chinese women's football team lost to Norway with improved performance

Source: Xinhua| 2018-03-03 09:16:03|Editor: Shi Yinglun
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Players of China line up ahead of the Group A second round match against Norway at the 2018 Algarve Cup women's soccer tournament in Albufeira, Portugal, on March 2, 2018. China lost 0-2. (Xinhua/Zhang Liyun)

VILA REAL STO ANTONIO, Portugal, Mar. 2 (Xinhua) -- Despite improving in performance from two days ago and remaining superior on the pitch for some time, Chinese women's football team lost to Norway 2-0 in the second round of the 25th Algarve Cup here on Friday.

Coming off their 2-1 defeat to hosts Portugal on Wednesday, the Steel Roses started sharp Friday afternoon -- in both halves of the game, when Norwegian head coach Martin Sjogren admitted "China started both of the halves better than us".

But it was Norway that took the lead with a 25th minute header from Ingrid Syrstad Engen, with Emilie Haavie providing the cross from the left.

Goalkeeper Lu Feifei came out for the header but didn't get the ball. When asked by Xinhua, head coach of Chinese team Sigurdur Ragnar Eyjolfsson said he would have to see a replay of the goal, but "it seems like a goal we could prevent."

Up until the first goal, Norway was largely on the defense. But in the few cases where they got on offense, they were intrusive and effective. Great techniques were on display when Caroline Graham Hansen tilted the Chinese defense organization almost off balance with a series of good moves.

China created a number of goal-scoring opportunities with quality passing, and Wang Shuang was instrumental in testing Norway's defense to the edge, only to miss the goal slightly. She was often seen with the ball around the box, but without effective support from her teammates.

That remained the case after the interval, when China came close twice to score in the first ten minutes of the second half.

Despite playing without key player Li Ying, who was shown two yellow cards in the last game, China had numerous attempts on target until Norway gradually took the upper hand.

Maren Mjelde made it 2-0 in the 88th minute after latching on to a rebound from Lu Feifei to seal the game for Norway, a goal Eyjolfsson said he "can take the blame for."

"The second goal came because I pushed in the end a lot of players forward, which is risky to do," he said, "it doesn't matter if you lose one-nil or two-nil, we try to get a goal in the end, didn't work but we created some opportunities to score in the end."

The Chinese team were visibly more spirited and enthusiastic than their last game with Portugal, and kept pounding on the Norwegians, something its head coach appreciated.

"The performance of our team was good today, I was happy with the players. We created a lot of very good chances. We were unlucky not to get anything out of the game," Eyjolfsson said.

"It's important for us to get the performance so short before the Asian Cup. It's encouraging for our team. Of course you will always want as a coach both the results and performance, but today we got the performance not the results," he said.

In the other match of Group A, world No.4 Australia was held 0-0 by a stubborn Portugal, which ranks No. 38 worldwide.

In Group B, Canada beat Russia 1-0 thanks to a penalty-kick, while Sweden and Republic of Korea played out 1-1 draw.

In Group C, Reigning Asian champions Japan rebounded from their 6-2 defeat by the Netherlands to seize a 2-1 win over Iceland.

The Japanese opened the scoring in the 15th minute. When Japan failed to clear a corner kick and in the midst of a scramble, Hlin Eriksdottir found the back of the net from close range in the 74th minute.

At around five minutes until the end, Emi Nakajima's cross found Rumi Utsugi in the box before the latter headed home for Japan to claim the win.

In the other match of Group C, Netherlands defeated Denmark 3-2.

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KEY WORDS: soccer