By Andrew Downie
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – United States goalkeeper Hope Solo and Colombian midfielder Catalina Usme were embroiled in a battle royal when the sides met on Tuesday and while the match ended 2-2, there was only one winner in the personal duel.
Solo had a stinker and was at fault for both Colombian goals, including a last-minute equalizer, although the Americans still finished top of Group G in the Olympic soccer tournament.
Playing her 201st international, Solo let Usme’s 25-yard free kick squirm through her legs in the 26th minute when she should have gathered easily.
Crystal Dunn got the U.S. back on level terms 15 minutes later as the world’s top-ranked side gradually imposed themselves on a team 23 places below them.
Colombian keeper Sandra Sepulveda was one of her side’s best performers and she did enough to prevent captain Carli Lloyd’s shot from going in, but her defenders failed to clear the ball when it rebounded off the bar and Dunn poked home the equalizer.
Substitute Mallory Pugh put the U.S. ahead after 59 minutes when she fired home through a crowd of players from nine yards and she also had the ball in the net two minutes later but it was ruled offside.
The dominant Americans should have added more to secure a third win out of three but if Solo thought her team mates had done enough to spare her blushes, she was made to think again in injury time.
As the final whistle approached, Solo tried to punch away Usme’s free kick but somehow missed the ball completely and it flew into the top corner.
The result made little difference to the final standings in the group, with the U.S. topping the standings on seven points, one ahead of France, who beat New Zealand 3-0.
France will face Canada in the quarter-finals, while the U.S. will play an as yet undecided team.
“No journey to the top is ever perfect,” Lloyd said on Twitter after the game. “We move on and keep our heads up. The best is yet to come!”
(Editing by John O’Brien)