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Jun 27, 2011

Mexico hold England as Japan beat NZ

England were held to a 1-1 draw by Mexico in their opening game of the Women's World Cup at Wolfsburg's Volkswagen Arena.

Fara Williams headed Hope Powell's side in front midway through the first half, but a mistake by goalkeeper Karen Bardsley gifted Mexico an equaliser before the break as she failed to keep out Monica Ocampo's long-range effort.

The Lionesses started on the front foot and Kelly Smith fired a left-foot snapshot just wide of the near post from the edge of the area.

England went in front in the 21st minute when Karen Carney's excellent outswinging corner from the right picked out Williams and the midfielder's header looped into the net, evading both goalkeeper Cecilia Santiago and the defender guarding the near post.

Mexico's equaliser in the 34th minute came out of the blue and England goalkeeper Bardsley was at fault. Ocampo let fly with a powerful, swerving strike from all of 40 yards and though Bardsley had time to see it and get across her goal she still could not stop it from going in the top corner.

England should have retaken the lead early in the second half only for Eni Aluko to miss her kick with the goal at her mercy and the 2009 UEFA Women's Championship runners-up could not find a winning goal, leaving themselves with work to do from their remaining group games.

After the game, Powell admitted that while disappointed with the draw, she was relieved to avoid defeat.

"I'm glad we didn't lose, that's the main thing,''she told BBC Sport. "It was a great strike from them which pulled them back into the game. We're disappointed we didn't win the game, but we go again for the next one.

"Our players struggled a little bit with the heat, but no excuses, our players can play better and we'll have to play better if we want to stay in the tournament.''

Powell accepted Bardsley should have done better with Mexico's goal, saying: "Honestly we would have expected her to save that, she's bitterly disappointed."

Earlier on Monday, Japan began their World Cup campaign with a deserved 2-1 defeat of New Zealand, a match that was a fine spectacle for 15,000 fans in Bochum.

The Nadeshiko began brightly and scored in the sixth minute when Yuki Nagasato latched on to a throughball to lob Kiwi keeper Jenny Bindon and open the scoring.

New Zealand soon hit back when Amber Hearn headed home a 12th minute equaliser when it looked as if the Japanese would run away with matters, with their free-flowing energetic style causing plenty of problems for their opponents who had to defend for long periods of the game.

Pressure finally paid off when Japan's Aya Miyama curled home a free kick in the 68th minute to give her side victory. New Zealand failed to land another blow as both teams suffered in temperatures of 30C.

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