U.S. beats up Nigeria behind prime Hamm

Posted: Friday, September 26, 2003

PHILADELPHIA Mia Hamm was unstoppable for the second straight World Cup game, scoring two early goals, then setting up one in the second half as the United States routed Nigeria 5-0 Thursday night.

Hamm treated a crowd of 31,553 to yet another masterful performance. After assisting on all three goals in a 3-1 victory over Sweden on Sunday, soccer's career scoring leader with 144 goals almost single-handedly did in the Nigerians.

Hamm converted a penalty kick in the sixth minute with a shot low to the right corner after Cindy Parlow was knocked down in the area by Nigerian captain Florence Omagbemi.

In the 12th, she sent a 35-yard free kick on a majestic arc and goalkeeper Precious Dede could only get her fingertips on it as the ball settled into the net. Two minutes later, Hamm nearly had a hat trick her twisting shot from the left wing barely missed. She also hit the goal post in the second half.

PHILADELPHIA Sweden used an early goal by Victoria Svensson to beat North Korea 1-0 Thursday in Group A of the Women's World Cup.

Russia 3, Ghana 0

CARSON, Calif. China coach Ma Liangxiang has said that this year's team is not as good as the one that lost the 1999 World Cup final to the United States on penalty kicks.

His observation carried more weight after Thursday's 1-1 tie with Australia dropped the Chinese into second place in Group D.

Russia took the group lead and clinched a spot in the quarterfinals with 3-0 win over Ghana in the first of two matches in Carson. Marina Saenko had a goal and started another scoring play for the Russians.

In the second game, China's Bai Jie scored in the 46th minute to tie it, and the Australians repeatedly turned away offensive threats the rest of the match.

''They did a great job as a team, made it difficult for us to score,'' Ma said through an interpreter. ''It was a very exciting match."

''I expect in the next game we can play better than in this one.''

China (1-0-1) faces Russia (2-0) and Australia (0-1-1) goes against Ghana (0-2) on Sunday at Portland, Ore., to conclude Group D play. China only needs a tie against Russia to reach the quarterfinals. With two losses, Ghana cannot advance.

The Australians are ranked 15th in the world, so their coach was pleased with the tie against No. 4 China.

''Our players gave everything they possibly could, competed right until the very end,'' coach Adrian Santrac said. ''For our team, it has been quite an experience. China is quite clearly among the best in the world.''

Heather Garriock scored in the 28th minute to give Australia the lead.

As they did in a 1-0 opening win over Ghana, the China controlled the flow of the game but could not finish most of its opportunities. The Chinese outshot Australia 9-3, but put just two of their shots on goal.

''I was satisfied with my players, but they (the Australians) played very good defense,'' Ma said.

China kept the pressure on most of the second half, but Australia's defense crowded back into its own zone, making it almost impossible for the Chinese to get off any quality shots.

On Bai's tying goal, Cassandra Kell swatted Zhang Ouying's crossing pass away, but the ball bounced straight to Bai, 7 yards out in the center of the box.

After a moment's hesitation as she tried to control the ball, Bai poked it toward the goal with her right foot. Australian defender Cheryl Salisbury tried to clear the ball as it rolled across the line, but instead kicked it into the net.

Salisbury, who played for the New York Power of the WUSA, had saved a goal in a similar situation in the first half, kicking the ball out as it was about to roll over the goal line.

Danielle Small made a perfect through pass to set up Australia's goal.

Garriock sprinted to catch up to the ball, barely outracing Chinese defender Li Jie. As Li and goalkeeper Zhao Yan both converged on her, Garriock stretched as she went down and tapped the ball across the mouth of the goal. With no one near it, the ball slowly rolled across the goal line inside the right post.

Australia was 0-6-1 in World Cup play going into the game.

In Russia's win, Saenko scored on a free kick in the 36th minute, Natalia Barbachina made it 2-0 in the 54th and Olga Letyushova capped the scoring with a close-range volley in the 80th minute.

Russia goalkeeper Alla Volkova, sometimes rushing to the top of the box to turn away scoring threats, was particularly effective when Ghana had breakaways.

''The strategy of our game was based on our defensive manner,'' Russia coach Yuri Bystritsky said through an interpreter.

''At first we were biding our time and then we used quick counterattacks to go through the defenders of our opponents.''

Saenko scored on a hard drive from just outside the top left corner of the box that curled around the defensive wall and sailed into the top left corner of the net.

Another free kick by Saenko began the sequence for the second score. Letyushova got off a header, and the ball struck the base of the right post. Barbachina pounced on the rebound while the ball was still in the air, and banged the ball high into the net while goalkeeper Memunatu Sulemana was sprawled on the ground.

Letyushova scored on a volley after a scramble in front of the net.

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