Han Duan, of the Chinese women's soccer team, gets possession of the ball during a match against New Zealand. China beat New Zealand 1-0 on July 20, 2008 in Qinhuangdao. [Xinhua]
QINHUANGDAO -- Striker Han Duan scored a header in the first half to give China a 1-0 win over New Zealand in a warm-up for upcoming Olympics here on Sunday.
The winning goal came only four minutes into the game when Han headed in a cross from 18-year-old midfielder Gu Yasha.
"Han Duan is the most dangerous player in the Chinese squad," said New Zealand coach John Herdman. "As Ma Xiaoxu is trying to get fit for the Olympics, any coach will worry about combination of Han and Ma."
Chinese star striker Ma Xiaoxu came on as substitute ten minutes to the end, which was her first game since being seriously injured seven months ago.
China head coach Shang Ruihua missed the game for watching Olympic rival Sweden's tune-up match against Norway on the same day, and his assistant Gao Rongming said he was satisfied with his players' performance.
"It is a good warm-up game, considering that the opponents played in the same style with our Olympic group rival Canada," Gao said.
"New Zealand has changed a lot," Gao said. "They have greatly improved in organizing and defensing."
China started with its traditional 4-4-2 formation, attacking the opponents mainly from the two wings, and all their first-choice players were fielded except defending midfielder Bi Yan, who injured leg muscle in the training one day earlier.
The Chinese "Steel Roses" needed to control the ball better, making low and short passes as many as possible, while New Zealand counted on its strong physical condition by launching long-pass attacks.
New Zealand had a good chance for equalizing in the 14th minute, but midfielder Kristy Yallop headed wide after taking advantage of defender Liu Huana.
Chinese Midfielder Zhang Ying almost made it 2-0 just before the end of the first half but her powerful low shot at the edge of the box was narrowly wide of the left post.
Striker Han Duan came close to scoring her second goal in the 55th minute when her close-range shot was stopped by center back Abby Erceg after receiving partner Zhang Ying's creative heel pass.
New Zealand played much faster in the second half and controlled the situation after the first ten minutes.
"We dominated for a long period, but scored nothing," Herdman said. "Our players are very disappointed at the outcome."
Herdman also thought that his team still "needs a little more energy" to put on good show at the Olympics.
China is the in group with Sweden, Canada and Agentina at the Olympics. It will kick off its Olympic campaign on August 6 in Tianjin.