EDMONTON — Canada settled for a 0-0 draw with New Zealand at the Women’s World Cup on Thursday, unable to turn its edge in possession and scoring chances into maximum points.
The game had plenty of drama with a weather delay, Canadian goal called back and both sides hitting the crossbar, with the woodwork denying a New Zealand penalty kick.
Inability to finish has been an issue for Canada, which needed a stoppage-time penalty kick from captain Christine Sinclair to dispatch China 1-0 in the tournament opener.
But this time there was no last-minute happy ending for the home team although Sinclair had several chances to end the deadlock, including an 85th-minute shot that went wide.
Still the single point all but assures Canada (1-0-1) of advancing to the second round, but the order of finish in Group A will go down to the wire.
The point was only the second at the World Cup for New Zealand. The first came four years ago when John Herdman, now Canada’s coach, was at the Kiwi helm.
Canadian giveaways at the back suggested there is work to do. Better teams will punish such mistakes. Herdman took off centre back Lauren Sesselmann in the 68th minute, inserting veteran Carmelina Moscato.
Canada’s Kadeisha Buchanan showed her defensive class with a key tackle in the 65th minute, poking the ball away as a New Zealand player slashed towards goal.
In the earlier game at Commonwealth Stadium, No. 16 China beat the 12th-ranked Netherlands 1-0 on a 91st-minute goal by Wang Lisi. China outshot the Dutch 27-8 (10-3 in shots on target) but were repeatedly denied by goalkeeper Sari Van Veenendaal.
The results tightened up Group A, leaving Canada with four points, the Chinese and the Dutch on three and New Zealand on one.
The Canadians leave Friday for Montreal where they will wrap up pool play Monday against the Dutch at Olympic Stadium. New Zealand faces China that same day in Winnipeg.
Rain lashed the stadium immediately after the first game, leaving the Canadians and New Zealanders to warm up in a downpour. The rain continued, soaking the crowd of 35,544 and offering the players a different challenge after the heat of their opening matches.
As thunder rumbled, the contest was halted in the fourth minute due to the threat of lightning with German referee Bibiana Steinhaus ordering the players off the field. The PA announcer asked fans to take refuge under the stands.
The game resumed 30 minutes later under sunshine after a warmup that saw Herdman and rival coach Tony Readings, Herdman’s former assistant when he coached the Kiwis, chatting on the sidelines. Herdman then kicked the ball around with some of his players
Canada is ranked eighth in the world compared to No. 17 for New Zealand.
New Zealand missed a glorious opportunity to go ahead via a 33rd-minute penalty kick when Amber Hearn beat goalie Erin McLeod but hit the crossbar. Fullback Allysha Chapman had been penalized for bodychecking Hannah Wilkinson to the ground in the box after a Buchanan giveaway.
Sesselmann was erroneously given a yellow card on the play that was later corrected to Chapman.
The Kiwis had the best early chance with McLeod forced to tip a Hearn header over the bar on a free kick in the 10th minute.
New Zealand ‘keeper Erin Nayler saved Jonelle Filigno’s straightforward header and then Sinclair’s more challenging left-footed shot in the 23rd minute as the Canadian captain pounced on a fine feed from Ashley Lawrence, who was celebrating her 20th birthday.
A Melissa Tancredi goal off a free kick in the 45th minute was called off for offside. Replays showed the Canadian forward was offside when Filigno headed the ball to her.
Canada had the bulk of the possession in the first half while New Zealand looked to threaten from set pieces.
Nayler made a fine save to push a looping Sinclair shot over the crossbar in the 47th minute. The Canadian captain led by example again in the 58th minute, refusing to quit on a ball chase and winning a corner.
Sophie Schmidt came close with a long-range free kick in the 71st minute that glanced the crossbar. Nayler stopped Tancredi minutes later.
McLeod was brave in the final minutes, going down to deny a New Zealand attack.
The result left Canada’s all-time tournament record at 5-11-4.
The Football Ferns are now 0-9-2 record at the tournament. Herdman was at the New Zealand helm when it collected its first point at the tournament, a 2-2 draw with Mexico in 2011.
Canada came into the contest riding a nine-match unbeaten streak and sporting a 6-1-3 all-time record against New Zealand, with the lone loss coming in 1987. Canada outscored New Zealand 17-4 during that stretch.
Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press