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Sports

Americans victorious on historic day

The Associated Press
Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 10:28 PM
MANCHESTER, England -

In an iconic venue against a mysterious opponent, the U.S. women's Olympic soccer team did the familiar: Abby Wambach scored the decisive goal in a victory, and the players found a funky way to celebrate.

Wambach scored for the 141st time in international play, and the Americans finished atop their group Tuesday with a 1-0 win over North Korea in the first women's soccer game at Old Trafford in 23 years.

"You think of the great players that have played out there before us, and the goals that have been scored," U.S. defender Amy LePeilbet said. "It's one of the highlights of my career."

Chants of "U-S-A!" among the crowd of 29,522 echoed in the home of Manchester United as the Americans completed a 3-0 run in group play. They were already assured a berth in the next round entering the game, and they move on to Newcastle for a quarterfinal match Friday against New Zealand.

North Korea finished with a 1-2 record in the group and completed the game with 10 players after Choe Mi Gyong was sent off with a second yellow card in the 81st minute following a tackle on Lauren Cheney.

The North Koreans are ranked in the top 10 in the world, but they remain an unknown in women's soccer because their players and officials have limited interaction with other teams. They sent a very young squad to these Olympics: Their average age of 19 years, 11 months made them look like a junior club next to the Americans, who checked in at 28 years, 1 month.

Wambach's goal came in the 25th minute on a play set up by Cheney's long ball to Alex Morgan, who slid a pass between two defenders to Wambach for an easy tap-in and her third goal of the tournament. The U.S. players celebrated by forming a line facing the crowd while holding hands — then they starting wiggling their arms as if to create the look of a giant, slithering snake.

The last women's game played at Old Trafford was an FA Cup final in 1989, a match that drew less than 1,000 people.

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