England were held to a one all draw with the United States after goalkeeper Robert Green gifted the opposition an equaliser just before half-time in tonight’s FIFA World Cup 2010 Group C match between the two sides.
Clint Dempsey’s scuffled effort appeared to be straight forward for the West Ham ‘keeper, but he somehow managed to allow the ball to go underneath him.
It is a poor start for a side who have aspirations to lift the World Cup in four weeks time, but, in truth, can have no qualms about the result because, although they created the majority of opportunities, did not do enough throughout the match to earn the winner.
It all appeared to be going well for the English after only four minutes when Steven Gerrard opened the scoring. The ball was played across the left hand side, and reached Emile Heskey who laid the ball of to Gerrard to fire home, past Tim Howard.
Although Gerrard took the plaudits for the goal, in truth it was Heskey who created it through his strength and vision, and vindicated Fabio Capello’s decision to play him despite the Villa man enduring a poor season last year.
Despite the goal, the American’s looked fairly comfortable in the opening stages and did not panic after falling behind. However, their only chance early on came through a Clint Dempsey header, but it was tame and never looked like troubling Green.
After 18 minutes, though, Landon Donovan’s brilliant cross should have been headed in by Jozy Altidore, but the big forward somehow managed to miss the ball.
Aaron Lennon should have then done much better when found clear in the opposition box. His cross, however, was cleared by Oguchi Onyewu.
James Milner was booked after 25 minutes due to persistent fouling. And from the resulting free-kick from Donovan, Onyewu’s header almost made the far left corner, but it was just too high.
Howard bravely prevented the second goal just before the half hour mark when clashing with Heskey after a pinpoint cross from Glen Johnson.
Capello then made a surprising substitution when Shaun Wright-Phillips came on for the yellow carded Milner. The decision was mainly down to the booking the Aston Villa midfielder received earlier on and not through his performance.
England, though unable to dominate possession, were far more direct and played the ball with pace, which helped almost create something through the substitute Wright-Phillips and Ashley Cole, but the U.S defence, once again, snuffed out the threat.
A rare counter attack from the Americans resulted in Donavan’s 20 yard effort going a couple of yards wide, but still managed to worry Green who was at full stretch.
But with just five minutes left of the first half, Green let the ball squirm through his hands and into the net after a tame Dempsey effort.
It was a cheap goal to give away and compounded the English problems over their current goalkeeping status. Green was given the number one jersey ahead of Joe Hart and David James, but there will undoubtedly be much debate whether he should hold onto it for the remainder of the tournament.
But for the U.S, they deserved to go into the interval all square. Despite being unable to create a whole lot of chances, they did match the English for possession and work-rate.
And to add to Capello’s woes, Ledley King had to come off at half-time due to injury and was replaced by Liverpool’s Jamie Carragher.
Lennon’s electric pace almost put England back into the lead early on in the second-half, but Carlos Bocanegra timed intervention denied a near certain goal.
And a few minutes later, Heskey should have scored after racing through in on goal. However, the forward shot straight at Howard. It was a panic shot by the striker who is clearly lacking in confidence and has not scored since February.
After the hour mark, Gerrard gave away a free kick outside his own box and was booked in the process. And Bocanegra almost sneaked the header in from Donovan’s cross, as the Americans continued to look dangerous, especially from set-pieces.
Immediately after, however, Frank Lampard tested Howard with a long range strike. And then Johnson should have done better from the resulting corner.
The game was starting to be stretched, and Altidore suddenly found himself clear on goal after some questionable defending by Carragher. However, Green helped atone for his earlier mistake with a stunning save; tipping the shot onto the woodwork and away.
England were now starting to gain a foothold in the match and, with only 20 minutes left, Gerrard, who picked up Aaron Lennon’s short pass, put a great ball in to Wayne Rooney who found himself in yards of space, but unfortunately for him, he couldn’t quite reach the ball as it dwindled out for a goal kick.
Rooney was finally starting to make his mark on the game, and his 30 yard strike straight from a throw in almost caught Howard out, but just went wide.
And Rooney, along with Wright-Phillips, should have given England the crucial third goal of the match. Howard, though, proved a match for any English threat.
Despite some concentrated pressure from England and with the arrival of Crouch, they were unable to take the lead in what turned out to be a disappointing evening for them.
USA, however, will be delighted with the point, and will believe they can build on the result to qualify for the next stage of the competition.
England: Green, G Johnson, A Cole, Terry, King (Carragher), Gerrard, Lennon, Lampard, Milner (Wright-Phillips), Rooney, Heskey (Crouch).
USA: Howard, Bocanegra, Onyewu, Cherundolo, DeMerit, Bradley, Dempsey, Clark, Donovan, Altidore (Holden), Findley (Buddle).