World Cup 2010 – Ghana stay alive as the USA tumble out
Ghana beat the United States 2-1 after extra-time to keep African interest in the World Cup alive in their last-16 clash in Rustenberg.
Kevin-Prince Boateng put the Black Stars ahead with a solo goal on five minutes but Bob Bradley’s US team fought back to parity thanks to Landon Donovan’s 62nd-minute penalty.
Asamoah Gyan pounced at the start of extra-time to join the tournament top scorers on three for the competition and Ghana held on at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium to qualify for the last eight for the first time in their history.
The United States seemed to start nervously and Ghana exploited their hesitance when a catalogue of errors handed them a fifth-minute opener.
Ricardo Clark – back in the starting line-up at the expense of Maurice Edu – dilly-dallied on halfway and was robbed by Boateng.
The German-born Portsmouth midfielder raced towards goal and, as Jay DeMerit took an age to close him down, the ex-Tottenham player drilled a low shot that beat Tim Howard, slow to get down at his near post.
Ghana threatened to run riot, pegging their opponents back and going close through Asamoah Gyan, whose curler was batted out by Howard, and Samuel Inkoom, who blasted over when the pass inside to Boateng was on.
Just after the half-hour Bob Bradley responded to his team’s mini-crisis by swapping the distraught Clark for the snappier Edu, who immediately brought bite into their midfield.
Robbie Findley spurned a gilt-edged chance to level when Clint Dempsey set the Real Salt Lake forward free: one-on-one, he could only fire straight at Richard Kingson.
The Americans were moving the ball better but they were still vulnerable at the back, with Watford’s DeMerit missing two clearances but spared by the pace of Steve Cherundolo the first time and – when his second error let Kwadwo Asamoah in – the feet of Howard.
Bob Bradley made another change at half-time, mimicking his decision in the Algeria game to bring a striker off for midfielder Benny Feilhaber.
It was Hercules Gomez in that match but this time Findley was replaced in an oddly attacking change: he is a midfielder, but Feilhaber allowed Dempsey and the hitherto quiet Landon Donovan to form a front three.
The impact was immediate as the US suddenly became an attacking menace.
A minute after the restart Feilhaber’s flicked finish was well blocked by Kingson, on 54 minutes a super cross from Donovan skipped inches away from Altidore and Dempsey, seconds after that John Mensah made a goal-saving tackle on Dempsey, and just before the hour mark John Mensah again denied a US goal-scoring opportunity by blocking Feilhaber’s shot from just inside the box.
Two minutes later they got their equaliser, when Dempsey nutmegged John Mensah with an audacious back-heel before drawing a foul from Jonathan Mensah, who was fortunate to stay on the pitch as he was the last man.
Donovan stepped up for the spot-kick and, after a brief delay while he collected his thoughts, the LA Galaxy forward clipped the ball in off the right-hand post to get his third goal in four games at the World Cup – making him another joint top-scorer but surely not for much longer as his team exited the tournament.
Ghana retreated into themselves, with occasional breaks only yielding speculative efforts from Gyan.
The US, meanwhile, were edging closer and closer to a winner, as the coach’s son Michael Bradley fired straight at Kingson after being played through by Altidore, who himself poked the ball just wide after a tussle with John Mensah left him off balance.
Ghana rallied in the dying minutes of normal time but Howard was largely untested as the crosses rained wide or were dispatched by DeMerit and Bocanegra.
Extra-time beckoned and, for all the US’s graft in the second half, they went to sleep again to let Ghana back in front.
A straight, long ball was flicked on by Andre Ayew and Gyan somehow held off challenges from Bocanegra and DeMerit before clipping a sweet finish over the advancing Howard.
In typical fashion, the US rallied, as Feilhaber had a low drive deflected just wide and Edu flicked a header beyond the far post as Kingson flapped at Donovan’s corner.
But Ghana had finally slipped back into their early first-half groove, slowing and quickening the tempo at will and effectively controlling the game.
The US appeared to run out of steam and as the second period of extra-time wound down they seemed exhausted, mentally and physically.
There was a last-gasp burst as Howard went up for a corner, DeMerit hooking the loose ball over, but Ghana closed out a win to take them into the last eight for the first time.
USA v Ghana
1st Half Goals 0-1
Shots on Target 6-6
Shots off Target 7-8
Blocked Shots 8-2
Yellow Cards 3-2
Red Cards 0-0
Passing Success 75.4%-77.2%
Tackles Success 63.2%-84.6%
Territorial Advantage 49.3%-50.7%
Reda Maher / Eurosport