Canadian women down China in soccer friendly

Christine Sinclair ( )

Christine Sinclair scored her 102nd international goal to lead Canada to a 3-1 victory over China in a soccer friendly at BMO Field on Thursday.

Canada’s national women’s team dominated China for most of the game while showcasing its controlled and tactical play.

Sinclair, the top scorer in Canadian history, nabbed the third goal of the night and Melissa Tancredi netted the winner in the 65th minute.

The play began when Rhian Wilkinson ran down the pass after it flew over her head and she directed it towards the net. Tancredi slid in and sent the ball just past the goalkeeper into the low corner, giving Canada 2-1 advantage.

Immediately after the 28-year-old’s goal, she was subbed out for Kara Lang, who impacted the game right away.

In the 68th minute, she passed the ball through traffic to an open Sinclair to left of the Chinese net. Canada’s captain then put her goal-scoring talents on display with a huge long shot right into the mesh, putting her team up 3-1.

The game was Canada’s final tune-up before World Cup qualifying at the end of October.

Though the Canadians played at a higher level throughout the game, it was a match-up between two fairly equal teams. Canada sits 13th in the FIFA world rankings while China is just one spot below.

But while the red-and-white still has a shot at the World Cup, China was earlier eliminated from contention after finishing fourth at its own qualifying tournament.

Canada, which outshot the Chinese 14-6, never allowed its opponent to gain much space.

Despite the Canadians’ stellar play, it remained 1-1 at the half.

China’s lone goal came on a mistake by goalkeeper Karina Leblanc in the 42nd minute.

After Leblanc batted away a shot, China’s Zhang Na picked it up almost at the centre of the field. Deciding to go for it, she booted it from that distance straight at the net.

Leblanc was there, but she mishandled the ball as it bobbled through her legs across the goal-line.

Diana Matheson was Canada’s other goal scorer, sending the ball into the net in the 23rd minute to make it 1-0.

Coming off a 5-0 loss to the No. 2-ranked Germany on Sept. 15, Sinclair said Thursday’s match-up was all about improving as a team.

“This game against China isn’t the end point for us,” she told the Toronto Star before the game. “We’ve got to qualify for the World Cup and everything we do is to build towards that. It’s not necessarily the result we’re after. It’s improvement.”

The victory should give the Canadians confidence.

Canada will now hold a training camp in Alliston, Ont., before heading to Mexico for its World Cup qualifying tournament from Oct. 28 to Nov. 8.

The top two teams of the tourney will make it to next year’s World Cup.