New Zealand 3
It was lucky number 13 for the New Zealand women's football side when they beat China for the first time in Auckland today as they made the best possible start the final stages of their Olympic campaign.
The Football Ferns hadn't beaten or even drawn with the former World Cup and Olympic runners-up in 12 previous encounters dating back to 1991 and, although China aren't the dominant force they once were being ranked 18 in the world, it was a significant result for a side intent on creating more history in London.
New Zealand bossed the match, aside from a 20-minute period early in the second half when China dominated possession with their short passing game, and could have won by more. They scored early through midfielder Hayley Moorwood and went to the break 2-0 ahead after a second to Sarah Gregorius.
Zhang Rui got one back for China in the 72nd minute as they found their rhythm but the Ferns refound their spark and Amber Hearn settled the match with a low drive in the 77th minute.
The victory stretched New Zealand's unbeaten streak to seven matches in 2012 that included a mauling of Papua New Guinea to qualify for the Olympics as well as an unbeaten run at the Cyprus Cup but today's result was arguably the most significant.
"It's a massive result for us,'' Ferns coach Tony Readings said. "China may not be the world power they once were in terms of rankings but you can see the technical ability they have and the fact there are no weak players in their side.
"We've never beaten or drawn against them so to get a win, and a pretty comprehensive one in the end, is massive for us and a big step forwards today towards what we want to achieve at the Olympics.''
London is the main goal. The Ferns have been drawn in the same group as Cameroon, Brazil and Great Britain, who they open the entire Olympic Games against, and have set lofty targets.
"We are aiming to win gold,'' Readings said. "People might laugh at that but we would rather aim for that and not achieve it. We have been preparing a team that can win six games at the Olympics. Getting out of our group would be a nice start for us and from there you are only two or three games away.''
They have a golden chance of making the quarter-finals in the 12-team competition, and have started to play a brand of football they believe will bring long-term success.
Former coach John Herdman improved the side considerably but played a structured system based on being defensively sound and quick on the counter.
Readings has encouraged his side to play more football across the park and, today at least, it worked. Defenders Abbey Erceg, Ali Riley and Ria Percival were particularly impressive and Hearn was strong up front and was denied a second only by the woodwork.
"What we are attempting to do that the moment is play a better brand of football where we are successful,'' Readings said. "You might be risking the ball a bit more because you are playing more in your own half but we believe it will win us more games long term.''
The Ferns have a chance to extend their unbeaten streak against China at North Harbour Stadium on Wednesday before two games against Australia next week.
New Zealand 3 (Hayley Moorwood 9, Sarah Gregorius 28, Amber Hearn 77) China 1 (Zhang Rui 72). HT: 2-0.