Soccer

Canada beats Ecuador in Pan Am women's soccer opener

Canada's women's soccer team opened defence of its gold medal with a 5-2 victory over Ecuador at CIBC Hamilton Pan Am Soccer Stadium on Saturday night.

Janine Beckie, Shelina Zadorsky each score pair of goals

Canada players, left to right, Shelina Zadorsky, Jessie Fleming, Janine Beckie, Sarah Kinzer and Ashley Lawrence celebrate Beckie's first-half goal. (Peter Power/The Canadian Press )

Canada's women's soccer team opened defence of its gold medal with a 5-2 victory over Ecuador at CIBC Hamilton Pan Am Soccer Stadium on Saturday night.

Janine Beckie and Shelina Zadorsky each scored twice and Emma Fletcher added the fifth goal.

The win was tainted when goalkeeper and captain Stephanie Labbe received a red card in the 86th minute after making contact with a rushing Ecuadorian forward as the last defender. She will be suspended for Canada's next game.

Labbe was replaced in goal by Beckie for the last minutes of the game.

Ligia Moreria scored twice for Ecuador.

Canada used its speed to pressure Ecuador early. A shot from midfielder Fletcher in the fourth minute deflected off the hands of Ecuador goalkeeper Shirley Berruz and then off the crossbar.

Canada's persistence paid off in the 13th minute when Beckie did some fancy footwork at the top of the box and connected with a left-footed strike.

The Canadians dominated until the 29th minute when Ecuador was awarded a free kick just outside the top of the box. Labbe managed to get a hand on Moreria's kick but couldn't bat it out.

That seemed to re-energize the more experienced Ecuador team. But in the 44th minute Zadorsky attempted a left cross that caught the stadium's renowned breeze and sailed over the Ecuador keeper's hands and into the net.

Zadorsky made it 3-1 in the 48th minute off a corner from Beckie.

Beckie and Fletcher scored two minutes apart, in the 77th and 79th minutes respectively, to break the game open.

Moreria added a goal in the 90th minute with Labbe on the bench and Canada down to 10 players.

In earlier women's action, Colombia defeated Mexico 1-0, Argentina tied Trinidad & Tobago 2-2, and Brazil defeated Costa Rica 3-0.

This is an eight-team tournament divided into two pools of four teams each. Canada plays Ecuador, Costa Rica and Brazil in Group B with the top two teams heading to the semis. Mexico, Colombia, Trinidad & Tobago and Argentina play in Group A.

Canada not only looks to defend its 2011 Pan Am gold medal with what is essentially an Olympic development team — a young roster of players hoping to impress Canada Soccer and eventually make their way onto the senior squad.

The gold-medal team in 2011 was led by the likes of Christine Sinclair and Diana Matheson, but those icons of Canadian women's soccer aren't in Hamilton.

This time around the Canadian team is led by standout defender Kadeisha Buchanan, 19, named the best young player of the 2015 World Cup. She is joined from that World Cup team by Ashley Lawrence, 20, who scored for Canada against the Netherlands and 17-year-old Jessie Fleming.

Labbe, 28, is the oldest player on this team which would otherwise be a U-23.

While Canada has chosen to use this competition for its next generation to gain international experience, other teams are bringing full senior squads. Canada's competition in Group B — Ecuador, Costa Rica and Brazil — are fresh off their World Cup appearances so the Canadian women will be in tough.

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