EDMONTON — Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod didn’t take it easy on her family on Saturday.
She had a couple of very close encounters in Canada’s match against China in front of 53,058 fans before Christine Sinclair gave the home side a dramatic 1-0 victory on a penalty kick goal in the 90th minute.
McLeod was sorely tested on a pair of first half chances, rushing well out of her net to before diving to barely scoop up a loose ball in the 19th minute and then mere minutes later being beat up high by China’s Lisi Wang on a shot that caromed off both posts before bouncing safely free of the net.
“I had a couple of grandmothers here, my whole family,” said McLeod, a native of St. Albert, just outside of Edmonton. “I’m going to have to apologize to them tonight for a couple of the scares. The one that hit the posts was a great free kick. I’d like to see the replay to know if I was going to get it if it dipped any lower than that. I’ll just make sure I focus up on those for the following game.”
The Canadian ‘keeper also took a shot from across the centre line near the end of the first half and seemed to want to linger to watch it as the entire crowd willed her to get back to her net.
McLeod said eighth-seeded Canada might have dodged a bit of a bullet by getting their first-ever win to open a group round of World Cup play, as they were a bit off their game to start against the 16th-seeded Chinese.
“We were nervous and never really calmed down for most of the game,” said the 32-year-old national team veteran. “Our quality dipped. I think we were lucky to win, but we came out with the three points and that’s what we will focus on. Our goal is to be a team that grows throughout the tournament and we will definitely grow from that game.”
While their play to start the tournament left a little to be desired, the support given to the Canadian side in Edmonton to launch the event certainly didn’t.
“With how many people were here, we knew the first game was going to be a challenge,” she said. “We knew it was going to be emotional and that we would be nervous. I’m glad that we have got that one under our belts now.
“I was really proud to get to play in front of a home crowd like that today.”
Canada will next face New Zealand on Thursday, also in Edmonton.
Shane Jones, The Canadian Press