By Alan Duffy
An amazing 13-minute hat-trick from Carli Lloyd fired the USA to a deserved 5-2 win against Japan in the Women’s World Cup final.
The game was only three minutes old when the unmarked US captain fired home from a superbly worked corner from Megan Rapinoe.
Lloyd then doubled her side’s advantage just two minutes later, again racing into the box unhindered to get on the end of a cross.
The Japanese were shellshocked and on 14 minutes, things went from bad to worse when Azusa Iwashimizu, who had been guilty of slack marking for the first two goals, made a hash of a headed clearance. The ball fell to Lauren Holiday who superbly volleyed home.
But that wasn’t the end of the onslaught, with Lloyd saving her best ’til last on 16 minutes. Seeing Japan ‘keeper Ayumi Kaihori way off her line, the Houston Dash star produced a magnificent strike from the half-way line to make it 4-0 to the USNWT.
Japan then started to find their feet, albeit rather too late, and they got one back before the break courtesy of a fine turn and shot from former Chelsea forward Yuki Ogimi.
Japan boss Norio Sasaki then hauled off the hapless Iwashimizu, who broke down in tears on the bench, with Nadeshiko Japan legend Homare Sawa taking her place.
After the break, the holders looked to have got themselves back into the game when Julie Johnston headed past her own ‘keeper Hope Solo.
However, a quick response from Tobin Heath restored the USA’s three-goal lead, after yet more poor defending from Japan.
Sub Mana Iwabuchi did her best to help ignite a fightback for the Asians, but ultimately the US were simply too good.
The win saw Jill Ellis’ side take revenge for their 2011 final loss to Japan while Lloyd’s incredible hat-trick will live long in the memory.
Photos: Getty Images
Highlights: zidanekrisz via Daily Motion