July 25, 2012: Britain's Stephanie Houghton, center, celebrates after scoring with her teammates from left, Kelly Smith, and Eniola Aluko, during the women's group E soccer match between Great Britain and New Zealand, at the Millennium stadium in Cardiff, Wales, at the 2012 London Summer Olympics.AP2012
CARDIFF, Wales – The first victory of the London Olympics went to the host country.
Stephanie Houghton scored off a free kick Wednesday to give Britain a 1-0 win over New Zealand in the opening women's soccer match of the London Games, two days before the opening ceremony at the Olympic Stadium.
Houghton sent a right-footed shot into the left side of the net in the 64th minute, getting the ball just inside the wall to beat New Zealand goalkeeper Jenny Bindon.
Britain is one of the favorites to advance from Group E along with 2008 silver-medalist Brazil, which will play Cameroon later in the day at the same stadium.
The soccer tournament started before Friday's opening ceremony because of its long match schedule. The men's competition will begin on Thursday.
New Zealand, which has never won a match in the Olympics or the World Cup, began controlling the match but Britain took over about midway through the first half, creating a series of dangerous scoring chances.
The best chance before Houghton's goal had come in the first half when midfielder Anita Asante's header struck the woodwork and just trickled out in the 34th minute, prompting Bindon to kiss the post in appreciation.
Bindon had already made a difficult save on a long-range free kick taken by Houghton in the 21st, and in the ensuing corner forward Eniola Aluko had her shot blocked just in front of the goal, with Bindon already beaten.
Asante also just missed with a header in the 36th off a corner, and Alex Scott's shot in the 38th went just wide after she got past a defender inside the area.
New Zealand had one of its few scoring chances early in the second half, when Amber Hearn's free kick shot sailed wide but close to the goal in the 49th.
Britain continued to attack and substitute Ellen White missed a chance in the 63rd after entering the area free from defenders. Her shot was just blocked by Karen Carney at the last moment.
New Zealand forward Sarah Gregorius nearly equalized in the 72nd after two British defenders collided trying to make a play. Gregorius ended up with the ball just in front of the net but shot it into the hands of Britain goalkeeper Karen Bardsley.
Bardsley also tipped a shot from Hearn over the crossbar in the 84th.
The soccer tournaments take longer because organizers need to give teams enough days off in between matches so players can recover after each game.