Nadeshiko Japan draw with United States in Kirin Challenge Cup

Japan were held to a 1-1 draw by the United States in their first game of the women’s Kirin Challenge Cup on Sunday night at Sendai’s Yurtec Stadium.

Yukari Kinga scored the opener for Japan in the 32nd minute, but the United States replied in the 72nd minute through Alex Morgan.
In the three-nation round-robin tournament, Japan’s second match will be against Brazil on Thursday night at Homes Stadium in Kobe. The United States will move on to play Brazil on Tuesday night at Fukuda Denshi Arena in Chiba.
In a rematch of last summer’s World Cup final, which Japan won on penalties, the Nadeshiko were put under pressure by the Americans in the early part of the game.
The visitors came close in the fourth minute when Rachel Buehler headed a cross following a short corner, but Japan goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori protected her goal.
But Japan never lost their focus and control, waiting for the time to launch their attack. They then started creating chances after the 20-minute mark and Naomi Kawasumi had a good effort from an Aya Miyama corner.
Three minutes later, Mizuho Sakaguchi came into the area and connected with a Yuki Nagasato header, but her effort went wide.
The Americans, like Japan preparing for the Olympics, seemed to have studied Japan’s offense and center-back duo Christie Rampone and Rachel Buehler frustrated the hosts’ passing moves.
But it was Japan who took the lead in the 32nd minute.
Kinga got the ball on the right and cut inside the box before passing to Yuki Nagasato. Her close-range effort was blocked, but Kinga got the rebound and fired home from close range.
The United States came close to equalizing in the 41st minute when Morgan moved into the box to fire a shot from the left, but she missed by inches.
The visitors rallied in the second half with attempts from Carli Lloyd, Abbie Wambach and Morgan, but Japan held firm with Kyoko Yano and Saki Kumagai working hard at the back.
Japan came close to widening their lead around the hour mark as Nahomi Kawasumi got a Miyama ball but hit slightly wide. Substitute forward Kozue Ando, who marked her 100th appearance for Japan on the day, then cut in to deliver a good ball to Kawasumi three minutes later, but the score remained unchanged.
A few seconds later, Kawasumi latched on to a through ball from Shinobu Ohno to fire from close range, but that was denied by U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo to the disappointment and frustration of the 15,159 fans.
The Americans leveled the scores in the 72nd minute when Morgan latched on to a through ball from Lloyd to beat the Japanese defence and fired in from inside the box.
Japan brought on Rumi Utsugi and young forward Yuika Sugasawa late in the second half, and Kawasumi blasted from mid-range off a Miyama corner a minute from time, but her shot went high.