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Canada shock USA to reach Olympic women’s football final

Kashima (Japan) (AFP) – Jessie Fleming scored a second-half penalty as Canada stunned four-time Olympic women’s football champions the United States 1-0 Monday to reach the final for the first time.

Fleming’s 74th-minute spot-kick earned Canada a first win over their neighbours since 2001 and set up a clash with Sweden or Australia for gold.

Defeat ended the Americans’ 36-match unbeaten run against Canada. The world champions will face the losers of Monday’s second semi-final for the consolation of a bronze medal.

“It sucks, obviously, you never want to lose,” said US forward Megan Rapinoe.

“You never want to lose to Canada, you never want to lose playing the way we did.”

“There’s 100 things we’d all want to do better. I think that’s the most frustrating thing for all of us,” she added.

The US and Canada combined for seven goals the last time they met at the Olympics, a memorable 4-3 semi-final win for the US after extra time at Old Trafford in 2012.

However it wasn’t until the introduction of Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd and Christen Press on the hour here that the US recorded a first shot on target, a curling strike from Lloyd tipped over by Stephanie Labbe.

By that point the US had lost goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, the hero of their quarter-final win over the Dutch on penalties, to injury.

Naeher, who saved a spot-kick in normal time and two more in the shootout against the 2019 World Cup runners-up, required lengthy treatment to her right knee after landing awkwardly in the first half.

She courageously battled on for a few minutes but was eventually replaced by Adrianna Franch.

Labbe stopped two penalties herself in a shootout as Canada edged Brazil in the previous round, and she produced another sharp save to keep out Julie Ertz’s header at a corner.

The US had advanced to every Olympic final aside from at Rio 2016, where they lost to Sweden on penalties in the last eight.

Yet they had won just once in four matches over 90 minutes in Japan, and fell behind when Canada were awarded a soft penalty following a VAR review.

Deanne Rose put Tierna Davidson under pressure chasing a loose ball and the Canadian went sprawling after a tangle of legs, with the referee pointing to the spot after consulting the pitchside monitor.

Fleming tucked the penalty beyond Franch, and there would be no comeback from the Americans — Lloyd’s header clipping the bar in the final minutes as their Olympics came to a tame end.

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