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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Christine Sinclair’s penalty kick lifts Canada at Women’s World Cup

Christine Sinclair rushes toward head coach John Herdman after she scored the winning goal Saturday in Canada’s 1-0 victory over China at the Women’s World Cup. (Associated Press)
Associated Press

EDMONTON, Alberta – With the sellout crowd roaring, Christine Sinclair sprinted across the field and into the outstretched arms of coach John Herdman.

Sinclair had just converted a penalty kick in the second minute of second-half stoppage time, giving host Canada a 1-0 win over China on Saturday in the opening match of the Women’s World Cup.

After the celebratory hug, Herdman turned to the crowd and leapt into the air, pumping his fist.

Canada’s star striker and team captain had made her country proud.

“The first thing that went through my head was, ‘I’m taking this.’ I’ve been practicing my whole life for that moment,” said Sinclair, who turns 32 next week. “The next thing through my head was, ‘Man, the fans are very loud right now.’ ”

Canada was awarded the penalty by Ukrainian referee Natalia Rachynska after Adriana Leon was fouled by Rong Zhao. The sellout crowd of 53,058 at Commonwealth Stadium, the largest for a national team sporting event in Canada, was on its feet when Sinclair’s shot sailed just inside the post and past goalkeeper Wang Fei.

It was the first match of the monthlong tournament played across six Canadian cities. The United States opens Monday against Australia. The final is set for July 5.

Sinclair’s goal erased a frustrating match for Canada, which outshot the visitors 14-5. Following the gala opening ceremony that included performances by Canadians Sarah McLachlan and Tegan and Sara, China had come closest to scoring with a first-half free kick that bounced off both posts.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. Of course, it’s the opening game of the World Cup in front of 50-some-odd-thousand fans with the game on the line,” Sinclair said. “Yeah, it’s nerve-racking, but I live for those moments.”

Netherlands 1, New Zealand 0: Lieke Martens’ long strike from outside the box in the first half gave the Netherlands its first Women’s World Cup goal and a victory over New Zealand.

Martens curled the ball up and over the outstretched arms of New Zealand goalkeeper Erin Nayler in the 33rd minute. Netherlands is one of eight teams making its debut in the World Cup.