Canadian women win opener at Olympic qualifiers


Christine Sinclair, middle, in action for Canada. (Pat Sullivan/AP)

HOUSTON, TEXAS – There were only two questions that needed answering by the Canadian women’s team as it opened Olympic qualifying against a Guyana side that is the definition of a minnow in the CONCACAF pool.

The first was when would Canada score first and the second was how many they would score after that.

In the end, the Reds got on the board in the 26th minute and would add four more as they cruised to a 5-0 win over Guyana Thursday night at BBVA Compass Stadium.

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Playing against a Guyanese team that really was no match, Canada’s biggest task was breaking down a defensive line that pretty much featured all 10 outfield players behind the ball. Once Canada got on the scoreboard, it was downhill from there.

“When a team packs ten players into a 20 by 20 area, it’s not easy but these girls did well to score three goals in the first half and really put the game to bed,” Canadian coach John Herdman stated.

“Then they could enjoy it in the second, which I think it was what they were doing.”

Ashley Lawrence scored a hat trick and 16-year-old Deanne Rose had a pair for the Reds in their opening match of the tournament.

Canada found a lot of joy on the right side of the field, although its crosses into the box just weren’t finding their mark early on.

It wasn’t until the 26th minute that Rose was in the right place to throw her leg out and deflect home Sophie Schmidt’s header that came off Canada’s first corner kick of the night.

Just two minutes later, it was another corner, this one from captain Christine Sinclair, that yielded Canada’s second goal. This time it was Lawrence whose header looked like it took a deflection off of Rose. But the goal was awarded to Lawrence in the end.

“It’s a surreal feeling,” Lawrence said of her hat trick. “But I’m happy that we were able to get that performance in and start off on a good note and now it’s about recovery and onto the next game.”

Rose used her pace to great effect in the 39th minute when she blew past a Guyana defender on the right flank to latch onto a great pass from Schmidt. The teenager fired across the goal with a low shot that tucked inside the far post.

With Canada sitting on a 3-0 lead, it was all but over as the first half came to a close.

Guyana was well aware of the gulf in class between the two sides, so it hardly came as a surprise they bunkered against a Canadian lineup that was just about full strength. And for the first 26 minutes it worked as Canada couldn’t make much headway and when they got around one Guyana player, the team was organized enough to have another one there to back them up.

For a team that has spent very little time together, it’s all about small steps at this point.

“Imagine that. The 89th-ranked in the world took on the 11th-ranked team, a World Cup quality team and for the first 26 minutes kept them off the scoreboard,” said a very pleased Guyana coach Mark Rodrigues. “Take that all into perspective, at the majority of times during the game, our best matched up with their best.”

Rose continued to excel in the second half as she turned provider on Lawrence’s second goal in the first minute after the restart. Rose crossed in from the right and Lawrence was probably level with the penalty spot while unmarked. She connected on a header that wasn’t powerful but looped over a number of Guyanese players and into the corner of the net.

“I would say maybe that we didn’t get more,” Rose responded when asked if anything surprised her about the game. “I think they were playing deep and it was hard to break them at first but we got through it.”

Just a minute later, Lawrence scored her third after Sinclair played the ball into her path straight in front of goal. Lawrence hit a powerful shot on the half volley for Canada’s fifth.

Veteran midfielder Desiree Scott earned her 100th cap for Canada on Thursday.

Earlier in the day, Trinidad and Tobago came back from behind to beat Guatemala 2-1 at BBVA Compass Stadium. Trinidad and Canada both have three points, but Canada tops the group by virtue of its superior goal difference.

Canada plays Trinidad and Tobago on Sunday in Houston.

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