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Sunday, April 27, 2008
ESPNsoccernet: April 28, 1:31 PM UK
Lloyd hits late winner to spoil Australia's comeback

CARY, N.C. -- Carli Lloyd saved the U.S. women's soccer team from an epic collapse in its first home game of the year.

Lloyd's goal in the 91st minute gave the Americans a 3-2 victory against Australia on Sunday night in an exhibition game.

The Australians rallied from a late 2-0 deficit with two goals in the final 6 minutes, tying it in the 88th minute when Cheryl Salisbury followed her deflected penalty kick with a header that got past Hope Solo.

Lloyd put the Americans ahead to stay in the first minute of bonus time. Cat Whitehead sent the ball toward the goal, Australia keeper Lydia Williams punched it into the air and Lloyd headed it into an empty net.

Natasha Kai and Abby Wambach also scored for the Americans, who were playing on home soil for the first time this year and improved to 11-0-1 under new coach Kia Sundhage while fine-tuning their attack for this summer's Olympics.

They overcame some soggy conditions, a 53-minute weather delay -- and Australia's frantic comeback -- to successfully kick off the three-city exhibition tour that precedes Beijing and improve to 17-0-2 in the series.

Kate Gill also scored for the Australians, who have never managed better than a pair of ties since the series began in 1987 -- including the 1-1 draw four years ago at the Athens Olympics that put the eventual gold-medal-winning Americans into the quarterfinals.

The United States, which won the previous meeting 2-0 during the 2006 Peace Queen Cup in South Korea, also remained perfect in four matches at the quaint stadium in suburban Raleigh where the NCAA annually crowns one of its national champions. But to do it, Sundhage's team had to contend with a field that was drenched after heavy rain began falling about an hour before kickoff.

Lightning and thunder claps pushed the start time back nearly an hour, the players spent much of the first half contending with puddles to the right of Williams and much of the second half was played in a steady downpour.

The Americans controlled play early, with Lloyd and Wambach peppering Williams. Kai put the U.S. up 1-0 in the 35th minute when she bounced a shot off the inside of the right post and past the keeper for her seventh goal of the year.

Another scoring chance was thwarted two minutes later when Kai was looking at a sure-thing breakaway chance when she tried to maneuver around Salisbury, but the Matilda captain dragged her down and was issued a yellow card.

Wambach made it a two-goal game in the 49th minute by scoring in her fifth straight game. She took a cross from Amy Rodriguez and headed the ball past Williams for her 93rd career goal, moving her closer to becoming the eighth player to reach the century mark in international play.

Heather Garriock assisted on Gill's goal to highlight her 100th international appearance. The 25-year-old midfielder became the youngest Australian player to reach 100 caps.

Defender Heather Mitts, who tore knee ligaments last May in a friendly against Canada, made her first start and appearance of the season for the Americans, who have a rematch with Australia on May 3 in Birmingham, Ala., before they face the Canadians a week later in Washington.




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