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The game might have turned on a play in the 26th minute when Aya Miyama’s free kick from just outside the box struck Heath’s left arm in an apparent hand ball. Japan appealed for a penalty kick, but referee Bibiana Steinhaus let play continue.
The Americans struck again within the first 10 minutes of the second half. This time it came on a slow buildup, with Megan Rapinoe feeding Lloyd in the center. The midfielder attacked, creating space despite having Morgan breaking to her right. Lloyd fired a shot past goalkeeper Miho Fukumoto into the far corner for a 2-0 cushion.
Storylines U.S. 2, Japan 1Midfielder Carli Lloyd scores both goals for the Americans, leading them to their third straight Olympic gold medal.
» U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo makes six saves, and Alex Morgan finishes the tourney with a team-high five assists.
» Japan was 2-1-1 against the U.S. in their last four games.
"This year has been trials and tribulations, and this win feels like everything has come full circle," Wambach said. "It was a team effort for this entire tournament and it shows what it takes to win championships — it’s teamwork and loyalty and trusting in each other."
It also took some luck.
Japan seemed to play inspired after Lloyd’s second goal by unleashing a relentless attack to try to regain momentum. It came to fruition in the 64th minute. It took three good tries, but Japan finally closed the margin to 2-1 after Shinobu Ohno’s shot was cleared off the line. Homare Sawa fired a point-blank shot that Rampone blocked back to the aging Japanese star. This time Sawa, 33, found Ogimi open on the left for an easy tap-in.
It almost went badly for the Americans in the final anxious minutes because of a defensive lapse by Rampone. A lackadaisical clearance on the left led to a counterattack by reserve Mana Iwabuchi. The Japanese striker curled a shot toward the back post, but Solo dove to her left to knock it away.
"Everything came together and fell into place," said Lloyd, who also scored the only goal in the 2008 victory in Beijing.
"No one can stop this team."
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