China Beats Sweden 2-1 at Olympic Women's Soccer

China edged European powerhouse Sweden 2-1 in front of some 38,000 home fans in their opening match of the Olympic women's soccer tournament in Tianjin on Wednesday.

The Chinese Steel Roses opened the scoring in the 6th minute when striker Xu Yuan steered the ball into the empty net after midfielder Zhang Na's powerful long shot bounced off the left post.

Sweden equalized in the 38th minute when striker Lotta Schelin beat Chinese goalkeeper Zhang Yanru in a counterattack and dominated the second half with their physical advantage.

However, striker Han Duan scored in the 71st minute to seal the victory for China. The 25-year-old sent a powerful shot at the edge of the box off a pass from striking partner Xu.

"We know each other very well," Han said. "So I could play some one-twos with Xu to beat defenders."

The 23-year-old Xu attended the press conference after the match for the first time. "I need to gift the goal to my parents," she told Xinhua.

"I really appreciate the two scorers," Chinese coach Shang Rihua said. "But I also need to thank our defenders for the hard work."

"The home fans gave us great support," Shang said. "Maybe that is why so many countries would like to host Olympics."

Sweden coach Thomas Dennelby was disappointed at the loss, but believed his team could still advance to the quarterfinals.

"I will forget the game quickly," he said. "I think we still have good chance to reach the knock-out stage."

"Our performance is good in the first 75 minutes," he said. "But we made some mistakes."

China started with its traditional 4-4-2 formation, attacking the opponents mainly from the wings. Coach Shang put Han and Xu on front line, with Bi Yan supporting attacks in midfield.

The Steel Roses controlled the ball better, making low and short passes as many as possible, while Sweden counted on its strong fitness and fast pace by launching long-pass attacks.

The Chinese defenders paid much attention to Sweden's ace striker Lotta Schelin from the beginning and tried hard to give her little space to play.

After Han scored China's second goal, the Scandinavians had a few chances for equalizing, but their efforts were denied by goalkeeper Zhang with excellent saves.

The Chinese lost two key players to injuries just before the match. Star forward Ma Xiaoxu injured her left knee in a warm-up against the United States, and midfielder Qu Feifei broke her leg in a tune-up with New Zealand.

China will take on Canada in its second match of Group E on Aug. 9 while Sweden will face underdog Argentina.

(Xinhua News Agency August 7, 2008)

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