The U.S. fought back from three deficits and overcame a historic hat-trick from legendary Canadian striker Christine Sinclair to grab a 4-3 win over Canada on Alex Morgan’s 123rd minute extra time stunner in Olympic soccer semifinal action at Old Trafford in Manchester, England on Monday. The win sees the U.S. advance to the 2012 London Olympic women’s soccer Gold Medal Match against Japan.
Seventh ranked Canada took the lead on three occasions, but first ranked U.S. fought back each time to send the game to overtime. It wasn’t until the 123rd minute, well into stoppage time of the second period of extra time, that Morgan would put the U.S. into the lead for the first time all night. Unfortunately for Canada, there was no time to respond.
Sinclair initially gave Canada the lead heading into halftime against the run of play, but the U.S. struck back directly off a Megan Rapinoe corner kick to equalize nine minutes into the second period. Sinclair would pull the lead back in the 67th minute, only for Rapinoe to respond again three minutes later with a fantastic strike. Three minutes after that it was Sinclair completing her hat-trick to put Canada on top, only for the U.S. to respond through Abby Wambach on a controversial penalty kick in the 80th minute to send the game to extra time.
The U.S. had the better of the early play, but couldn’t test goalkeeper Erin McLeod before Canada opened the scoring in the 23rd minute through star Sinclair. Marie-Eve Nault found Melissa Tancredi just inside the box who quickly played it to Sinclair. Canada’s all-time leading goal scorer then took a couple touches to find space, before beating goalkeeper Hope Solo from about eight yards out to give the underdogs a surprise lead.
The Canadians could’ve had a second just four minutes later after a cross from Desiree Scott found Sophie Schmidt at the far post. Schmidt powered a header on frame, but Solo was there to make the save.
The U.S. finally came close to equalizing in the 30th minute off a long free kick from Rapinoe. Rapinoe’s service found Morgan at the far post, but the 23 year old striker headed the ball just wide.
Seven minutes later it was Morgan turning provider. The young forward found space on the right flank after a slip-up by a Canadian defender and sent in a cross to Wambach, but her header was just wide.
The U.S. would got their equalizer nine minutes into the second half in incredible fashion. A Rapinoe corner kick slipped through two Canadian defenders and entered the net, giving her a rare goal directly from the corner.
But, Sinclair was the hero again in the 67th minute, putting Canada back in the lead with her second goal of the night. Tancredi provided the assist again, this time with a fantastic cross from the left flank. Sinclair rose up to direct the cross past Solo with a powerful header, putting Canada up 2-1.
The U.S. would equalize once more in the 70th minute through another wonder strike from Rapinoe. A cross field pass from Kelley O’Hara found Rapinoe just outside the right side of the box and the midfielder took a touch to settle the ball before blasting a shot that beat McLeod, hit off the far post and went in.
Still, Sinclair wasn’t done. Three minutes after Rapinoe’s equalizer, the legendary Canadian rose up to head in a corner kick by Rhian Wilkinson and complete her hat-trick to make it 3-2. The goal was the 143rd in 29 year old Sinclair’s international career.
Yet the U.S. were given a lifeline when McLeod was called for holding onto the ball too long, giving the U.S. an indirect free kick inside the box in the 78th minute. The U.S. played it to Rapinoe, whose blasted shot was blocked by Nault’s hand and the referee immediately whistled for a penalty kick, much to Canada’s dismay as the contact appeared unintentional. Wambach converted it with a low shot just inside the post, knotting it up, 3-3, in the 80th minute. The goal gave Wambach 143 for her career, matching Sinclair.
Five minutes later the U.S. could’ve taken their first lead after Morgan broke behind the Canadian defense. Morgan ran in on goal, beat her defender, and sent a pass to a streaking Wambach at the far post. With an open net, but a tight angle, Wambach couldn’t direct the ball on frame.
Continuing the back-and-forth affair, Schmidt had a chance for Canada in the 89th minute, forcing a turnover from a U.S. defender and running in on goal before powering a shot on frame. Solo was there to make the save and send the game in extra time.
Ten minutes into extra time, Wambach had another chance to put the U.S. ahead. This time the 32 year old striker got on the end of an O’Hara cross, but her header was too weak to beat McLeod.
With under two minutes to go in the second period, it was Wambach again coming close on a header. Wambach’s effort off a Morgan cross was denied only by the crossbar.
Morgan finally scored the winner dramatic fashion in the final minute of stoppage time to send the U.S. through to the gold medal match. Morgan rose above her defender to head in a cross from the Boston Breakers’ Heather O’Reilly – a substitute in extra time – to grab the comeback victory.
The U.S. faces third ranked Japan – a rematch of the 2011 World Cup Final in which the U.S. lost on penalties – in the Gold Medal Match at Wembley Stadium in London on Thursday. Coverage of the game starts at 2:30 p.m. on the NBC Sports Network.