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China scores on a header to beat Ghana
( 2003-09-22 14:26) (Agencies)

Sun Wen, the MVP of the last Women's World Cup, scored on a header in the 29th minute Sunday night and China began the 2003 tournament with a 1-0 victory over Ghana.

China, beaten by the United States in the 1999 World Cup final, was scheduled to host this year's tournament. But the SARS outbreak there led FIFA officials to shift the competition to the United States.

The skilled Chinese, one of the world's top teams for the past decade, controlled the game with superior passing and tactics. Goalkeeper Zhao Yan got the shutout, although China's defense kept Ghana from mounting many serious threats.

The 30-year-old Sun, who has said she is retiring after the World Cup, was a constant presence with her dribbling and pinpoint passes that helped to keep China on the attack.

Sun also blocked a free kick by Alberta Sackey from just outside the box in the 57th minute, one of Ghana's few scoring opportunities. The ball struck Sun in the face, and she fell to the turf and lay there motionless for a moment before springing up and chasing the play downfield.

Her goal finished a well-executed sequence. Bai Jie took a throw-in just on the left side just outside the box, whirled quickly toward the goal line and sent a high pass toward the far post. As goalkeeper Memunatu Sulemana jumped, the ball sailed just beyond her reach and Sun in perfect position leaped and knocked the ball into the goal.

It was her 106th career goal.

Wen had a tournament-leading seven goals in the 1999 World Cup, but the Chinese were left looking for their first world title when the Americans defeated them 5-4 on penalty kicks in the championship game at the nearby Rose Bowl.

Ghana, ranked 53rd internationally, played determined defense against China, which is ranked No. 4 and was heavily favored in the Group D match. Ghana is led by Sackey and Elizabeth Baidu, both NAIA All-Americans at Robert Morris College in Illinois.

 
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