USA and Mexico into Women's Gold Cup semis with wins

LOS ANGELES: The United States eased into the semi-finals of the CONCACAF Women's Gold Cup with a 3-0 victory over Colombia yesterday while Mexico joined them in the last four thanks to a 3-2 win over Paraguay.

The USA will play for a place in the final against Canada on Wednesday while Mexico will face Brazil with both games and Sunday's final in San Diego.

A Lindsey Horan penalty and first-half goals from Jenna Nighswonger and Jaedyn Shaw gave the USA a 3-0 lead at half-time as they bounced back from a surprise loss to Mexico in their final group game last Monday.

Any hangover from that loss was cured when Alex Morgan was barged over in the box by Jorelyn Carabali and Horan calmly slotted home from the spot to put the USA ahead in the 13th minute.

Nine minutes later and the Americans doubled their lead when the overlapping Nighswonger fired home a sweet left-foot shot after a header down from Morgan.

Colombia responded positively, though, and the USA had goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, making her 100th appearance for the team, to thank for two fine saves.

First she dove to keep out a powerful strike from Linda Caicedo and then the keeper was at full-stretch to get her left hand to a curling effort from Ilana Izquierdo.

But the game was put beyond Colombia in first-half stoppage time when Trinity Rodman slid a low ball across the box that was turned in by 19-year-old Shaw.

Horan struck the post with a free kick just before the break but the second half was kept under control well by interim coach Twila Kilgore's team.

The semi-final provides a chance for the USA to avenge their loss to Canada in the semi-finals of the Tokyo Olympics.

"Most of all it was about the intensity we showed through the 90 minutes," said Naeher.

"Obviously we were disappointed in the result against Mexico and I am really proud of the way we regrouped in a short period of time and came out and the three quick goals nice and early set the tone for us. It wasn't easy. Colombia are a great time."

Mexico overcame a determined Paraguay thanks to an outstanding display from Lizbeth Ovalle, who scored twice to take her tally for the tournament to five goals.

Mexico went into the game on a high after beating the USA -- only the second-ever victory over their rivals, whom they could meet again in the final.

Ovalle fired Mexico in front in the 31st minute after she was found at the back post by Mayra Pelayo and drilled home a low left-foot shot.

Kiana Palacios then missed a glorious opportunity to double the lead, putting the ball over the bar from point-blank range.

The second came, four minutes after the interval, when, from an Ovalle corner, right-back Karen Luna fired a shot on the half-volley that took a deflection as it flew into the net.

Paraguay had a chance to get back in the game from the penalty spot but Jessica Martinez's weak effort was saved by Esthefanny Barreras.

The South Americans then threw themselves forward and reduced the deficit with Camila Barbosa's header from a corner in the 64th minute.

But just five minutes later, Mexico restored the two-goal cushion with Stephany Mayor breaking free before her shot was pushed away by Alicia Bobadilla, only for Ovalle to pounce on the loose ball and turn it home from a tight angle.

But Paraguay were in no mood to roll over and struck again when Rebeca Fernandez timed her run behind the defense to perfection and coolly finished to make it 3-2.

Ovalle, searching for her hat trick, forced a brilliant diving save out of Bobadilla with a curling free kick from over 25 yards out and the Paraguay keeper was at full stretch again to reach a superb shot from Karla Nieto.

"If I had been told before the tournament that we would be in the semi-finals, I would consider it a success... but now we want more. We want to get to the final," said Mexico coach Pedro Lopez. - AFP

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