CHESTER, PENNSYLVANIA – A last-gasp strike from Yuka Momiki earned Japan a deserved 2-2 draw against the United States on Wednesday in the opening round of the four-nation SheBelieves Cup.
Momiki smashed home a close-range finish after superb work from Yui Hasegawa in injury time to deny the U.S. an opening victory in the friendly tournament at Chester’s Talen Energy Stadium.
The late strike was no less than Japan’s skillful play merited in a hard-fought game between the two 2015 World Cup finalists, both of which are building toward this year’s Women’s World Cup in France.
The U.S. looked to have done enough for three points when Alex Morgan put her team ahead 2-1 in the 76th minute, cleverly steering Christen Press’ cross into the Japanese net with her chest to claim her 99th international goal.
But a sweeping Japanese attack in the closing stages yielded an equalizer, with Yui Hasegawa unselfishly picking out the unmarked Momiki to score, shocking the announced crowd of 14,555.
“There’s value in salvaging a draw against the U.S. It’s a great experience ahead of the World Cup,” said Momiki, who entered the match in the 80th minute.
It was the second time Japan had come from behind to equalize, Emi Nakajima curling home a superb finish in the 67th minute to cancel out Megan Rapinoe’s 23rd-minute opener for the US women.
Eighth-ranked Japan now have one win, eight draws and 27 losses against the United States, with the only victory coming in the 2011 World Cup final.
Japan head coach Asako Takakura praised her team for twice fighting back from deficits but said they needed to improve the coordination of their attack.
“I don’t know how I would rate this game. It’s a plus that we came from behind twice and held them to a draw, but our build-up play was bad. We can do a lot better,” Takakura said.
Japan will play Brazil on Saturday in Nashville, Tennessee, before finishing the tournament Tuesday against England, who they will face in Group D at the Women’s World Cup.
“They’re very different opponents. We want to win,” said Takakura.
Mead rocket downs Brazil
The English had earlier recorded a 2-1 win over Brazil thanks to a thunderous winner from Arsenal forward Beth Mead in the first game of the day.
Second-half substitute Mead crashed in a spectacular angled shot in the 75th minute to ensure the Lionesses got off to a winning start in the tournament.
Ellen White had earlier hauled England back into the match with an equalizer in the 49th minute after Brazil had taken the lead through a controversial Andressa penalty just 16 minutes into the first half.
England, the 2015 World Cup semi-finalists, will be pleased with an opening victory after recovering from the setback of conceding an early goal.
Brazil opened the scoring from the penalty spot after captain Marta caught England counterpart Steph Houghton in possession near the halfway line and surged into the English penalty area.
The Brazilian veteran of four World Cup campaigns cut inside only to be dispossessed by what looked like a perfectly judged tackle by English fullback Lucy Bronze.
U.S. referee Ekaterina Koroleva adjudged the tackle a foul, however, and pointed to the spot, waving away English protests.
Andressa then stepped up to ram home the spot-kick past England keeper Carly Telford.
The Lionesses did get back on level terms four minutes into the second half with a goal that owed everything to the clever industry of Fran Kirby as the lively Chelsea playmaker threaded a pass through to White, who finished past Aline to tie the game at 1-1.
Aline then denied Nikita Parris a second goal for England, diving at full stretch to save the Manchester City winger’s goalbound header in the 58th minute.
The introduction of Mead for Karen Carney after 66 minutes by England manager Phil Neville proved a masterstroke, however.
Nine minutes later it paid off as Mead uncorked a rasping shot from wide on the right that flew into the top corner for the winner.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5