The Canadian women’s national team remained unbeaten through two matches at the 2012 Cyprus Cup after a 2-1 win over Italy at GSP Stadium in Nicosia, Cyprus.
Whitecaps FC alum Robyn Gayle came on as a substitute and scored an injury time winner late in the second half to give Canada the win as the match looked destined to end in a stalemate.
Fellow 'Caps alum Christine Sinclair opened the scoring for Canada late in the first half with her 131st career goal for Canada, Italy got a response early in the second half from Sandy Iannella. The result moves Canada atop Group B in the tournament with two wins for six points. Scotland and the Netherlands are in second with three and Italy has zero.
Canada had much of the possession in the first half but was held off the scoreboard until the 43rd minute. Shannon Woeller lofted a high ball from Canada’s half, Sinclair, who was unmarked and beat the onrushing Italian goalkeeper Sara Penzo and lifted a perfect chip into the right corner.
Italy was level within seconds of the restart. After intercepting a ball off Rhian Wilkinson, Sandy Iannella started a nice give and go with Daniela Sabatino and, after taking the return pass, struck a hard shot into the top left corner. The goal came on Italy’s first shot on target of the game.
For the longest time it looked as though that would be it for goals but with 90 minutes on the clock and the first of four added minutes having already passed, Sinclair crossed a ball from the right side. Two more former Whitecaps helped set up the winner, as Chelsea Buckland headed the ball down and as it rolled by Kaylyn Kyle, who was tangled up with an Italian defender, allowing an onrushing Gayle to slam the ball across the goal into the left corner.
Canada’s starting XI featured Karina LeBlanc in goal, Rhian Wilkinson at right back, Shannon Woeller and Candace Chapman at centre back and Bryanna McCarthy at right back with Desiree Scott, Sophie Schmidt, Kelly Parker, Christine Sinclair, Christina Julien and Melissa Tancredi from the midfield up to the attack.
In the second half, Canadian head coach John Herdman replaced McCarthy with Chelsea Stewart (57’), Christina Julien with Brittany Timko (66’), Wilkinson with Robyn Gayle (72’), Tancredi with Chelsea Buckland (79’), and Parker with Kaylyn Kyle (82’).
Italy’s starting XI featured Sara Penzo in goal, Giorgia Motta at right back, Laura Neboli and Elisabetta Tona at centre back, and Alia Guagni at left back, Giulia Domenichetti, with Alice Parisi, Alessia Tuttino, Sandy Iannella and Daniela Sabatino and Pamela Conti from the midfield up to the attack.
In the second half, Italian coach Pietro Ghedin replaced Sabatino with Melania Gabbiadini (78’), and Domenichetti with Elisabetta Camporese (78’).
Canada concludes round robin play on Sunday with a match against the Netherlands. The Dutch won their opening match with a 2-1 win over the Italians before losing by the same score to Scotland.
Canada’s match against the Dutch will be played in Larnaca at the Ammochostos Stadium. The other final Group B match will be played simultaneously between Scotland and Italy in Paralimni. Depending on the result in the other match, Canada may still advance even with a loss, but as it stands right now, a draw would guarantee Canada a shot at their third straight Cyprus Cup title.