CARDIFF, United Kingdom — Canada coach Bev Priestman got the offence she wanted with three classy goals in a decisive 3-0 win over Wales on Friday, but it came with a scare in the first half.
Captain Christine Sinclair, playing her first game for Canada in more than a year, had to leave after tangling with a Welsh player with the visitors leading the soccer friendly 1-0. The 37-year-old from Burnaby, B.C., was clearly in pain as she lay on the ground at Leckwith Stadium but hobbled off the field under her own power in the 32nd minute, holding one of her boots.
Priestman was optimistic about Sinclair after the game, suggesting she may even be ready for Tuesday's match against England.
"It seems pretty positive with Christine," she said. "The first thing is she can weight-bear on her foot so that's a really good sign. So fingers crossed. Obviously we'll assess (Saturday) in terms of England. But I'm not majorly concerned at this stage. She's not off to get an X-ray or anything like that. So fingers crossed that she'll be fine for England."
Sinclair missed the SheBelieves Cup in February with an undisclosed injury.
"You never want to see any teammate go down, never mind Sinc, but I'm confident she'll be back," said goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe, who recorded her 35th shutout in 76 appearances for Canada.
Deanne Rose, Evelyne Viens and Jessie Fleming scored for Canada, which had notched just three goals in its previous seven matches (1-4-2).
"I said today we needed to be ruthless in both boxes and we did that," said Priestman. "We kept that clean sheet, got three goals."
"We were scoring goals that we don't normally see from Canada," added Labbe.
It marked the first time the Canadian women had scored three goals or more since Feb. 1, 2020, when they blanked Jamaica 9-0 in Olympic qualifying play.
All three Friday were beauties.
Canada turned its early superiority into a goal in the 25th minute with Quinn, who goes by one name, playing provider. Taking advantage of a poor clearance, the midfielder sliced open the Welsh defence with a superb looping ball from inside the Canadian half that put Rose in all alone. The University of Florida forward smashed a high shot home for her 10th international goal.
"Quinn's really excelled. A critical player in the midfield," said Priestman. "They've just been, with or without the ball, very dominant. I've been really really impressed with Quinn."
Viens, who had replaced the injured Sinclair, made it 2-0 in the 58th minute with a nice touch at the near post to knock in a Janine Beckie cross for her first for Canada in her fourth appearance.
Fleming made it 3-0 in the 62nd minute, curling in a beautiful shot past goalkeeper Laura O'Sullivan for her 11th goal in Canadian colours.
Sinclair, who earned her 297th cap Friday after tweeting "It's go time" prior to kickoff, is the world's all-time leading goal-scorer with 186. She almost notched No. 187 in the 21st minute after a giveaway in a dangerous position by Rachel Rowe but a diving O'Sullivan was able to palm her shot around the post.
It was Sinclair's first game for Canada since a tournament in France in March 2020.
Canada is ranked eighth in the world, compared to No. 31 for Wales. The two teams had met just once before, with a teenage Sinclair scoring twice in a 4-0 win at the 2002 Algarve Cup.
Canada now heads 235 kilometres northeast to Stoke-on-Trent for the game with No. 6 England.
Priestman fielded a more experienced starting 11 than she was able to at the SheBelieves Cup, with several veterans inured or unable to take part in the Florida tournament due to quarantine issues.
Her starting 11 Friday came into the match with a combined 939 caps — compared to 604 for the SheBelieves Cup finale 2-0 loss against Brazil on Feb. 24.
Only six of the starters against Brazil were back in the 11 Friday, with Sinclair, Jordyn Huitema, Ashley Lawrence, Vanessa Gilles and Quinn joining them.
The Canadians controlled the tempo early, moving the ball around and threatening on several corners. Quinn was influential in midfield.
Sinclair's departure seemed to rattle Canada. Wales came on as the first half wore down, playing more in the Canadian end. Still Canada had 59 per cent of the possession in the first 45 minutes, outshooting Wales 6-4 (2-0 in shots on target).
Priestman brought on Beckie and Jayde Riviere in the 53rd minute with Beckie soon influencing play.
"At halftime, I was actually quite firm with the group," said Priestman. "I felt for 20 minutes we looked like a team that was going to the Olympics and for the rest of the half … I felt like we needed to push more."
She urged her team to move the ball quicker, to break down the Welsh defence.
"When we did that, I felt that that's when we looked like a top side. But we just now need to do that consistently. And, by the way, we need to do it against Tier 1 teams.
"I'm very very happy with the win, the clean sheet. But ultimately the next game against England is going to be the real test.
Canada finished with 52 per cent possession, outshooting Wales 19-8 (6-0 in shots on target). Canada had eight corners to Wales' three.
Friday's game was the first as Wales coach for Gemma Grainger, who worked in the England setup with Priestman. It was game No. 4 for the 34-year-old Priestman, who is now 2-2-0 at the Canada helm.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 9, 2021
The Canadian Press