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Houghton starts Olympics in style
10:44am Thursday 26th July 2012 in London Olympics 2012 - Latest News
STEPH HOUGHTON believes she’s finally announced herself on the world stage after her stunning free-kick earned Great Britain a historic victory over New Zealand as the curtain came up on the London 2012 Olympics.
The 24-year-old full-back, from South Hetton, smashed home a 63rd-minute free-kick to give Hope Powell’s side a 1-0 win in Great Britain women’s first ever appearance at an Olympics at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
Also in the starting line-up was fellow North-Easterner, Sunderland-born Jill Scott.
The goal also saw Houghton finally banish her major championship demons after she missed the 2007 World Cup with a broken leg and had to forgo the 2009 European Championships with a cruciate ligament injury.
Having cemented her place in the history books with the very first goal of the London 2012 Olympics, the Arsenal defender believes she has finally put her injury troubles to bed.
“The first person to score in the London Olympics – that’s got a nice ring to it,” said Houghton, who began her career at Sunderland.
“I don’t score that many but I just fancied it. Hope [Powell] said to us before that we were making history and that’s a great feeling.
“I’ve missed World Cups and European Championships before through injury so this is unbelievable.
“I’ve had a few disappointments along the way but I think those disappointments have made me the player I am today.
“It’s a really special moment for me and I think that finally puts those injuries behind me.
“I knew I had struck the goal well – I don’t know whether the keeper read what I was going to do or not – but it was a relief to see it hit the back of the net.
“Without a shadow of a doubt, this is the highlight of my career.”
The victory was no more than GB deserved after peppering the New Zealand goal in the first half and Houghton fired an early warning shot on 23 minutes, only to see Kiwi keeper parry wide.
Kelly Smith was pulling the strings for the hosts and she supplied Eniola Aluko with the chance to open the scoring before half-time but her effort was blocked.
New Zealand offered precious little in attack and that hardly changed until Houghton opened the scoring on 64 minutes.
That did spark New Zealand into life with Hannah Wilkinson looking busy in attack without creating any moments of quality.
It was her strike partner Sarah Gregorius though who could, and should, have equalised but goalkeeper Karen Bardsley saved low to ensure Great Britain got off to a flyer.
Great Britain are now in the driving seat to reach the quarter- finals with the top two advancing from each group, as well as the two best thirdplace teams ahead of Saturday’s clash with Cameroon – again in Cardiff – before meeting Brazil at Wembley.
Houghton was quick to insist Great Britain will be keeping their feet on the ground.
She added: “We’re delighted with the win but for us it is about concentrating on the next game now.
“It’s great that everyone is getting behind Team GB and hopefully we can keep giving them a performance to be proud of and cheer.”
- Lloyds TSB, proud supporter of Team GB and proud partner of the London 2012 Olympic Games. Get closer to the Games at lloydstsb.com/london2012