A battling effort from New Zealand in Auckland on Tesday couldn’t stave off defeat as Canada claimed first blood in the inaugural under-17 women’s soccer World Cup.

The Young Football Ferns dominated the second half, but it was Canada who won 1-0 through winger Rachel Lamarre’s 53rd minute goal.

The New Zealanders never gave up, creating two clear chances in injury time, and they got a standing ovation from the crowd, who had been treated to an open and entertaining clash.

The nature of the contest, and the size of the 13,123 attendance at North Harbour Stadium, augurs well for the three-team 16-team tournament.

In an even opening quarter, it was the Young Ferns who created the first clear opportunity, with Hannah Wall’s through ball finding Rosie White, who forced keeper Genevieve Richard to make a save.

Richard was again called action shortly after, diving at the feet of Sarah McLaughlin.

But Canada’s extra pace began to tell as the balance of play tilted their way.

Up front, the trio of Lamarre, Tiffany Cameron and Nkem Ezurike were causing problems with their speed and trickery.

Ezurike had a great opportunity to put her side ahead in the 20th minute, but failed to make clean contact with her header from close range.

New Zealand keeper Victoria Esson, deputising for No 1 custodian Charlotte Wood, who received a hip injury in training, wasn’t called on to make a stop then.

But Esson did have to pull off a number of saves, no better than her flying effort to push a Cameron shot around the corner in the 35th minute.

To the delight of the noisy home support, the Young Ferns had their moments as well, with White nodding on to put Wall in the clear, but the midfielder shot early and wide.

New Zealand had a gilt-edge chance to break the deadlock early in the second half as Caitlin Campbell’s corner was headed back by Bridgette Armstrong, but McLaughlin couldn’t convert.

Minutes later the impasse was broken, Lamarre producing a fine individual effort with a run from midfield and a finish from the edge of the box.

The goal appeared to galvanise the Young Ferns, who embarked on their best period of the match.

In the 70th minute, they almost equalised when Campbell, after picking up the game’s only yellow card for what appeared to be an innocuous tackle, struck a free kick from fully 30m against the crossbar.

White then produced a snap shot that was only just too high.

New Zealand weren’t finished, and deep into added time they had two further chances to equalise, but White shot wide when put through with a great pass from Annalie Longo, before Wall’s lob of the keeper went agonisingly over the bar.

There was a worrying note for Canada when Cameron, a prolific striker who scored five goals in as many qualifying matches, was stretchered off with a leg injury with 15 minutes to go.

The tournament continues with three matches tomorrow.

New Zealand’s other group opponents, Denmark and Colombia, meet in Auckland, while group B gets started in Christchurch with Costa Rica facing Germany and North Korea up against Ghana.

The Young Ferns are next in action on Saturday, when they are back at North Harbour Stadium to meet Denmark.