PRE – So the United States will approach this quarterfinal without the services of the banned Lauren Holiday and Megan Rapinoe, while Abby Wambach drops to the bench. In come Amy Rodriguez up top, Morgan Brian centrally in midfield, and Kelley O’Hara out wide. American fans will be hoping the shakeup ignites an offense which has looked anemic throughout. Defensively, the U.S. probably has little to worry about, with China likely looking to park the bus and hit on a counter or set piece chance. The Asian side have impressed but are still heavy underdogs, despite the U.S.’ stagnant form this tournament.
2′ – The U.S. should already be up, 1-0. Lloyd flicks a ball forward that really should be handled by Dongna Li but isn’t, letting Amy Rordriguez run in 1v1 against Wang Fei. Her finish is ridiculously wide though. As in, it doesn’t even go behind inside of the six-yard box. Shocker.
5′ – Morgan finds a lane of space just outside of the box and fires hard but right at Wang Fei. Bright start for the U.S.
7′ – Dare I say it, the U.S. is pinging it around. O’Hara has time to wind up and crank an uncontested shot from the right edge of the box. It hops onto the roof of the net.
18′ – OK, just because the U.S. is pinging it about doesn’t mean it’s any more palatable at this point. China aim at Solo with an optimistic shot from range by Peng Han but see it rise into Row Z.
20′ – Cross to Lloyd at the edge of the area that she chests down. Dribble back and turn before passing to Morgan at the edge of the box. First time shot bounces right to the keeper.
21′ – Heath shakes Haiyan Wu out of her boots with a dragback at the endline before crossing towards the six. Lloyd jumps and misses, while O’Hara’s diving header doesn’t make clean contact.
24′ – The U.S. is getting all the crosses it can serve in by a Chinese defense content to clog the middle of the park, but the accuracy on said crosses thus far has been woeful.
24′ – Johnston steps up from center-back and lofts a cross near the penalty spot. Wang Fei comes and doesn’t quite get there, but China still manage to clear. Soon after, Shanshan Liu obstructs O’Hara as she plays it by her but gets away with just a warning.
26′ – Heath swings through the free kick, but the China defense clears easily. China concedes another quick foul though, and soon enough, Krieger is lumping another cross in. Wang Fei comes out and misses her punch, with the ball bouncing to Johnston with the keeper down. She shoots, but China clear off the line, with Rodriguez’s shot blocked seconds later.
28′ – Brutal tackle from China’s Jiahui Lou. She charges recklessly for a ball against Johnston and plants her studs into the center-back’s right thigh. How that’s not a booking is beyond me.
31′ – Apparently China did not get the memo. Corner kick to the penalty spot towards the late run of Johnston, who’s criminally unmarked. She actually mistimes it a bit and has to slow up to wait for the ball, but the header lands on the roof of the net.
35′ – SUB – Jiahui Lou, who hurt herself in the spiking of Johnston earlier, is forced off, with Shuang Wang. This isn’t going to help China’s cause as they try and weather the storm.
37′ – Free kick from about thirty yards for Lloyd. It arrows towards the upper-left corner but not with the pace to trouble Wang Fei, who bats it away. China clear.
45′ – Wang Lisi (?) gets off a half-chance as she’s unmarked out on the far flank and rips a shot that hits one of the support posts behind the goal. About as close as its gotten for China thus far.
45′ + 1′ – Must do better. Long cross into the box is nodded down by Lloyd, right to a wide open Alex Morgan. Her first touch is scandalous though, and her eventual shot is blocked.
HT – As expected, China hasn’t provided much offensively. Not as expected, the U.S. has shown an ability to pass that hasn’t been evident in their first four matches. The finishing though has been lackluster as ever, with some bad shanks and awful first touches spread throughout. A goal is coming for the U.S. in all likelihood, but everyone’s still likely to be sweating until it actually happens.
47′ – Rodriguez posts up at the edge of the arc, turns and shoots, but wide. China’ll probably take those low percentage shots all night long.
51′ – YELLOW CARD – China (Haiyan Wu) – Chinese captain Haiyan Wu with a professional foul as she’s beaten by Heath and clips her to the turf.
51′ – GOAL – United States (Lloyd) – She rises. The U.S. cycle it around on the free kick before Johnston lofts a ball into the box. Lloyd beats Rong Zhao to it in the area, heading it to Wang Fei’s left. The keeper can’t get down in time, and the U.S. are finally ahead.
56′ – Wang Fei’s aerial game has not been strong tonight, and she misses another punch on a corner here. Klingenberg pops it back into the scrum, but China finally clear.
57′ – What is it what the blood today? Kelley O’Hara is bleeding now and heads to the sideline for treatment (and possibly a new shirt).
58′ – SUB – At the same time, China bring off central midfielder Ruyin Tan and bring on Fengyue Pang. They need to find some offensive inspiration from somewhere.
61′ – SUB – Well, so much for the patchup job. O’Hara and busted nose come off for Christen Press.
63′ – Chance for the Americans, as Press is played near the endline by Krieger. She cuts back into space for Rodriguez whose first time shot is headed aside by a Chinese defender.
64′ – Brief danger, as Sauerbrunn is beaten in the air to a cross by Shanshan Wang, but her header is soft. Lisi Wang has a chance to work in the box but dawdles on it, so the U.S. are able to clear.
70′ – Solo punches away a corner, and the follow-up shot is blocked. The Americans eventually clear from the scrum. China with a little more possession in past few minutes.
73′ – China’s World Cup stays alive, after Press cuts inside and rips a shot from the edge of the area that hits the woodwork. Lloyd is offside on the rebound.
74′ – SUB – Final throw of the dice for China. On comes Jiali Tang, with Peng Han making way.
80′ – China have a rare opportunity on a dangerous free kick…which they promptly waste, as Wang Lisi shoots right at Solo.
81′ – SUB – The U.S. bring in Heather O’Reilly for Morgan, who still appears to be trying to find her form.
85′ – SUB – Crowd goes wild, internet goes mild as Abby Wambach comes on for the final handful of minutes for Amy Rodriguez, who had a fine match.
89′ – Press almost adds the coup de grace after a pulsating run from midfield at the far sideline. She blazes past tired legs into the box after cutting inside but puts her shot wide.
90′ + 3′ – China just don’t have anything left to break through the stout American backline. Fengyue Pang tries her luck from range, but it’s right to Solo.
FT – Perfection it wasn’t, but it was still a much better showing from the U.S. than what’s transpired before it. Something resembling a passing game finally appeared, and Carli Lloyd made a big chance count. The Chinese attack was never going to seriously trouble the U.S., and the backline and Hope Solo produced another strong showing for the win. But you can’t shake the feeling that the attack will need to finish much better to beat Germany in the semi-final.