The win was the final warm-up before the upcoming CONCACAF Women’s World Cup Qualifier in Cancun, Mexico from 28 October to 8 November. Canada face hosts Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana in the first round.
Melissa Tancredi nabbed Canada’s winner in the 66th minute and Christine Sinclair padded the lead in the 68th after these evenly matched sides went into half time with a goal apiece. Midfielder Diana Matheson opened the scoring in the 23rd minute and the visitors equalized through Zhang Na two minutes before the break.
National head coach Carolina Morace put out an experienced starting XI in a basic 4-3-3 formation. The four defenders in front of goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc were Marie-Eve Nault, Emily Zurrer, Candace Chapman and Rhian Wilkinson. Workhorses Matheson, Kaylyn Kyle, and Carmelina Moscato patrolled the midfield and wingers Josée Bélanger and Tancredi supported captain Sinclair up front.
Tancredi’s winner came as a result of a strong attacking move by Wilkinson when the right fullback carried the ball forward along the wing to the edge of the China penalty area. A low cross allowed Tancredi to sneak in at the near post to poke the ball past an unsuspecting Zhang Yanru in the China goal.
Captain Sinclair then added to the Canadian lead with a fine finish two minutes later. Sinclair capped a quick one-touch passing play between Bélanger and substitute Kara Lang with a near-post strike for her 102nd goal for the national side.
When Canada last played on home soil it was an 0:4 defeat to USA on 25 May 2009. This time around, the Canadian women looked more at home and much more comfortable in front of 5,427 spectators.
The last time these two sides met at this level was in a friendly match last April with China PR winning 2:0 on goals from Han Duan and Bi Yan.
The match opened with good scoring opportunities at either end.
Early pressure on the China defence came courtesy of Bélanger on the right wing. Bélanger earned a corner in the third minute that Matheson headed on goal but the ball was cleared off the line by a China defender.
China PR then transitioned to a quick counter-attack to spring Xu Yuan on a breakaway. Her shot was pushed over the bar by Canada goalkeeper LeBlanc.
Matheson would get another chance to open the scoring in the 23rd minute when a Sinclair pass put Matheson through on goal with Zhang standing up well to block a hard shot from the Canadian. Sinclair picked up the rebound and once again found Matheson in some space inside the China penalty box. Matheson beat two defenders before slipping a left-footed shot inside the corner of Zhang’s goal to make it 1-0 for the home side.
An uncharacteristic error from veteran Canadian goalkeeper LeBlanc allowed China PR to level the score two minutes before the break. A shot from 35 yards out by Na Chang didn’t look like it was going to trouble LeBlanc in the Canadian goal but the ball ended up in the back of the net when LeBlanc lost concentration and allowed the ball to squeeze through her legs.
Luckily for the Philadelphia Independence goalkeeper, her teammates came out in the second half with energy and confidence and were able to earn a vital win before CONCACAF World Cup qualifying begins at the end of the month.