MANCHESTER, England Aug 6 (Reuters) - Reigning Olympic
champions the United States beat Canada 4-3 when Alex Morgan
headed the winner in added time at the end of extra time to
clinch a place in the women's soccer final after an
extraordinary match on Monday.
With the players on both sides exhausted, penalties looming
and the referee looking at her watch, Morgan powered home a
header to put the U.S. in front for the first time after Canada
had led three times in a pulsating game at Old Trafford.
The winning goal came with 122 minutes and 25 seconds on the
clock. Sixty seconds later, the game was over.
The U.S., who have now reached all five women's Olympic
finals, taking gold in 1996, 2004 and 2008, will meet Japan in
Thursday's gold medal decider at Wembley Stadium seeking their
third successive gold and their fourth in total.
Japan, who overcame France 2-1 earlier on Monday, beat the
U.S. on penalties in last year's World Cup final.
Canada's stunned players were in tears at the end and
Christine Sinclair, whose hat-trick looked as though it would
prove enough for victory, was especially distraught.
But every time she scored, the U.S. showed the mark of
champions and responded for a fifth successive win in the
tournament to claim a place in the gold medal match.
Sinclair had opened the scoring with a delightful goal after
22 minutes when she slalomed past two defenders after being set
up by Melissa Tancredi.
The U.S. equalised with a rare goal scored direct from an
inswinging corner by Megan Rapinoe that beat Canadian keeper
Erin McLeod and two defenders at the near post.
Sinclair put Canada back in front after 67 minutes with a
firm header to start a wild scoring spree of four goals in 12
minutes - two from each side.
Rapinhoe equalised again three minutes later with a fierce
angled drive from the edge of the box that went in off the far
post before Sinclair got her hat-trick to put Canada 3-2 up with
another header after 73 minutes, her 143rd goal for her country.
But in the 80th minute the U.S. equalised for the third time
when Abby Wambach scored her 143rd international goal with a
penalty after Marie-Eve Nault was harshly judged to have handled
in the area by Norwegian referee Christiana Pedersen when a
freekick struck her elbow as she was turning away from the ball.
Extra time looked set to end without a goal after Wambach's
header hit the bar in the 119th minute but that was not the last
of the drama and deep into added time Morgan headed in a
right-wing cross for the dramatic winner.
(Writing by Mike Collett; Editing by Ken Ferris)