Leon hattrick ensures Canada ease past Paraguay into next round

February 25 – Canada controlled their second Group C match against Paraguay from start to finish in the Shell Energy Stadium in Houston to guarantee qualification for the knock out rounds that begin next weekend in Los Angeles.

A hattrick from Adriana Leon and a second W Gold Cup goal from starlet Olivia Smith put the game well beyond Paraguay.

Canada will have tougher and more testing games to come. Such has been the ease of their opening two group games it is difficult to assess how good this Canadian team is until those bigger challenges arrive.

But you can only play what is put in front on you and Canada have impressively dealt with those tasks so far. Paraguay will need to rethink their game plan for their final group game against El Salvador and play with more adventure if they want to guarantee progression from the group.

Both Canada and Paraguay had opened Group C  in Houston with wins. Canada had dismantled El Salvador 6-0 with ease while Paraguay had muscled their way past Costa Rica 1-0.

Canada had not conceded a goal for five games with their last loss being against Brazil in October last year in a pair of matches that saw them lose the first 1-0 but win the second 2-0.

Paraguay lined up with a deep back five, becoming six, with a deep three in-front, forcing Canada to bring the game to them to beat their block.

Canada used the width but Chloe Lacasse on the left and Leon on the right had little space to work with.

Canada’s first good opportunity came from a Leon corner that centreback Vanessa Gilles headed wide on 8 minutes. Five minutes later a diagonal ball from the right found Deanne Rose in the middle but her close control didn’t give her enough time to beat an advancing  Cristina Recalde in the Paraguay goal.

A Leon shot from outside the box on 20’ went over the top. Canada were using different points of attack on the Paraguay block and were starting to unpick it.

On 25’ Leon had the ball in the net. A ball through to Rose came back to Leon off a Paraguay defence for Leon to slot home on the volley – 1-0.

Paraguay resumed their defensive block as Canada pinged the ball comfortable around them and starting to find more success on the right with Leon a constant threat.

In the 33rd minute Canada’s fourth corner came to Lacasse who hammered the ball against the cross bar. Canada were finding more openings and it was only a matter of time before they scored again.

On 35’ Olivia Smith shot from distance forcing an awkward save by Recalde for a corner.

Three minutes later Canada had their second. Rose steaming in from the right had her shot palmed away by Recalde but only to be picked up by 19-year-old Smith inside the box who skipped past a defender before firing in across the goal – 2-0.

Canada would have been 3-0 up on the stroke of half time but for a double save from Recalde and Jessie Fleming hitting the third attempt over the bar.

Four minutes into the second half Canada had their third, and Leon her second. Clarissa Larisey on the left squared the ball to Leon who poked in the rebound off a Paraguay defender.

Leon had her hattrick on 55 minutes. Receiving the ball on the right on the edge of the 6-yard box, the Aston Villa forward rocketed her shot into the roof of the net.

Canada were now rolling in missed chances. In the 84th minute Jordyn Huitema had the ball in the net but VAR ruled offside.

In the first minute of added time Canada should have had a fifth. Simi Awujo was felled in the box by Fiorella Martinez. Fleming hit her penalty against the bar.

Priestman had rotated her bench without materially changing the pattern of Canadian dominance. If there is a worry for Preistman it is that having gone up by four they should have scored three or four more.Canada had outshot the Paraguayans 24-2 and controlled 64% of possession.

They meet Costa Rica next to finish off their group matches.

Paraguay likely need to get a point against or beat El Salvador to book second place in the group and a trip to LA for the quarter finals.

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