World Cup 2010 - Green blunder gifts USA draw

Sat, 12 Jun 23:30:00 2010

England were held to a 1-1 draw by the USA in their opening World Cup Group C game at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium near Rustenburg.

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England took an early lead through skipper Steven Gerrard but were pegged back after goalkeeper Robert Green inexplicably allowed Clint Dempsey's speculative 40th-minute shot to escape his grasp and roll into the back of the net.

Fabio Capello's side dominated the second half but were ultimately frustrated by a resolute US defence which held firm despite some intense late pressure.

Slovenia play Algeria on Sunday in the other Group C game.

Despite having handed David James the number one shirt before the squad flew out to South Africa, Capello opted to go with Green from the start, with the experienced Portsmouth keeper having to settle for a place on the bench alongside Joe Cole and Peter Crouch as James Milner and Emile Heskey were preferred.

Green had looked confident in his recent performances in between the sticks for England, but there was nothing assured about his blunder that gifted the USA an equaliser.

Landon Donovan let fly with a speculative low drive from distance, but with the ball heading straight for Green there appeared to be little cause for concern: the West Ham keeper had even settled into a cricket-style long-barrier pose to minimise room for error, yet he allowed the ball to squirm free of his grasp and into the back of the net.

The freak goal - one which is sure to play on the keeper's mind for some time - cancelled out Gerrard's fourth-minute opener, the England skipper having run onto Emile Heskey's lovely reverse pass to neatly slot past Tim Howard.

It was the perfect start for Capello's side, although the perfectionist coach was not in the mood for celebrating and was seen raging from the touchlines moments after the goal went in.

Indeed Capello ranted on more than one occasion during the first half, at times with good reason, not least when Jozy Altidore was allowed to meet a pinpoint Donovan cross on 19 minutes. Luckily for England, the former Hull City striker's header was tame and flew wide of the target.

England's back line looked porous for a second time from a set-piece on 27 minutes, but again a header - this time from Oguchi Onyweu - flew wide of Green's post.

At the other end, Aaron Lennon was put through by Wayne Rooney, but the Tottenham winger's decision to centre instead of going for goal himself was the wrong one.

Having already taken off Milner, who was booked early on, with just half an hour on the clock, Capello made a second change at the break as Jamie Carragher came on to replace the injured Ledley King.

But the Liverpool defender's lack of pace was exposed on 65 minutes when Altidore breezed past him only to see his shot knocked onto the frame of goal by Green, whose save went some way towards redemption on the night.

Earlier, Heskey had been presented with a golden opportunity to break his barren scoring streak for England when he was put through on goal, but the Aston Villa striker shot straight at Howard.

Frank Lampard stung the USA keeper's fingers from distance and Rooney saw an excellent long-range effort bounce just wide as England increased the pressure.

First-half substitute Shaun Wright-Phillips should have done better when played in by Rooney, Heskey headed over the bar and Lampard was denied a clean shot on goal at close range by a superb Onyewu challenge as the clock ticked down.

But the USA, who deserved their point, stood firm while England remained frustrated - although an opening game slip-up is hardly terminal news: back in 1966, Alf Ramsey's side drew 0-0 with Uruguay in their first game before going on to lift the trophy.

Match Stats:

England v USA

Goals 1-1

1st Half Goals 1-1

Shots on Target 6-4

Shots off Target 7-6

Blocked Shots 5-2

Corners 8-4

Fouls 12-14

Offsides 5-2

Yellow Cards 3-3

Red Cards 0-0

Passing Success 77.6%-66.8%

Tackles 12-22

Tackles Success 75%-68.2%

Possession 56.9 %-43.1%

Mike Hytner / Eurosport

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