World Cup 2010: England 1-1 USA - Robert Green's howler cancels out Steven Gerrard's opener as Capello faces injury woes

Group C rivals have to settle with a share of the spoils...
England 1-1 USA

England's opening World Cup Group C encounter against the USA finished 1-1 after a cut and thrust encounter inside the Royal Bafokeng Stadium.

Steven Gerrard opened the scoring after less than five minutes with a neat finish but a goalkeeping howler from Robert Green ensured the United States took a point away from the tie.

After endless speculation and hours of conjecture, England manager Fabio Capello's starting line-up and formation was revealed: a standard 4-4-2 formation with Green getting the nod ahead of David James and Joe Hart in goal.


In defence, Ledley King got the faith of the manager to fill injured Rio Ferdinand's boots, the Spurs stopper partnered John Terry, Ashley Cole and Glen Johnson in a familiar back four. Gerrard and Frank Lampard were selected in centre midfield, with James Milner the choice on the left and Aaron Lennon on the right. Emile Heskey partnered Wayne Rooney up front.

The United States opted for a familiar line-up. Jozy Altidore would fulfill striker's duties, with Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey providing support from the right and left wings respectively.

Player rating: 8

The game started in high tempo with England putting the USA under pressure immediately. The much maligned Emile Heskey proved a good early outlet for the Three Lions and his link-up play kept the United States back four occupied.

Less than five minutes on the clock and the positive start from Capello's men was to pay off.

A ball up to Rooney was mis-controlled by the Manchester United talisman but Heskey was there to pick up the loose ball. The targetman showed good vision to spot Gerrard breaking into the box and his reverse path was straight into his captain's path. The skipper fought off the attentions of defender DeMerit and slid the ball neatly past a despairing Tim Howard to give the Three Lions a dream start.

The Americans were shocked but, to their credit, after conceding they got their foot on the ball and started to create chances for themselves.

A spell of possession from them saw a corner awarded, and Oguchi Onyewu perhaps could have done better when he connected in the box from the set-piece, but his header flew high and wide over the goal.

Not long after and the USA had an even better chance. England weren't proficient with their ball retention and this allowed dangerman Donovan to drift down the left channel to deliver a dangerous ball across the six-yard box. Altidore seemed to arrive fractionally too late to connect though and a gilt-edged chance for the Americans went begging.

There was a real cut and thrust to the game at this point and straight down the other end England hit their opponents on the counter. A direct ball up to Rooney was controlled superbly and the striker dinked an excellent ball over the USA back-line to release Aaron Lennon down the right flank.

The speedy winger put on the burners and charged towards the bye-line. Rooney and Heskey were waiting in the middle for the cross but excellent defending by DeMerit stopped a dangerous ball from reaching its target and the USA were saved.

Milner, who had received a booking early in the game, was then brought off for Shaun Wright Phillips with only half an hour played, a clear sign that the stomach bug that had restricted the Aston Villa man's training during the week had taken its toll.

The USA were giving as good as they got though and good link-up play between Donovan and Robbie Findley saw them fashion a half-chance soon after, Donovan's curling drive on the edge of the box had the keeper scrambling, but the shot was just wide.

After that and the English goalkeeper was involved again, in an incident that he will soon want to forget.

A calamitous error from Green let the USA back into the game. A speculative shot from Dempsey should have been dealt with easily but the keeper let the ball slip from his clutches and roll over the goalline.

It was another disaster for a team that has had to deal with high-profile goalkeeping errors in the recent past, and England manager Capello looked aghast from the sidelines.

His squad had little time to recover from the blow of conceding as the half-time whistle was blown shortly after.

Green gaffe |
Keeper fumbled Dempsey's tame shot over his own line

The second period and England again started on the front foot.

Lennon in particular was impressive and the diminutive winger set up two great chances that should have been converted.

The first saw the winger display his dangerous pace. A darting run saw him go around the outside of Bocanegra and cut promisingly into the box. A delicious ball was slid across the goalmouth but both Rooney and Heskey failed to connect with it when all it needed was a touch to send it past Howard. Donovan collected it instead and cleared from danger.

Next and not long after, Lennon sent Heskey through with a great ball that let the big striker through on goal. The Aston Villa targetman is not exactly known for his finishing and this showed, his drive was straight at Howard who managed to catch his shot in his chest.


England were building pressure but the USA had their moments of danger. A clumsy challenge by Gerrard to the right of England's goal could have been punished when the referee awarded the foul. However, Donovan's curling delivery was headed wide by Onyewu.

The game was becoming stretched now and their was more space for both sides. Lampard was allowed to drift into a dangerous area in front of the box and the midfielder unleashed a fierce drive that Howard had to beat over his goal.

It was back and forth and Green went some way to making up for his howler in the first half when he produced an excellent save to deny Dempsey, the goalkeeper managed to push the ball wide of goal.

But it was the Three Lions who were really starting to knock on the door for the next goal. Wright-Phillips was enjoying more space down the right now and a cleverly disguised pass from Rooney allowed the winger to test Howard with a shot at a tight angle, the keeper doing well to beat it away.

More pressure from England and it kept coming. A delightful cross from Gerrard then set up Heskey, but with the goalmouth begging, the striker headed over the bar from close range.

Crouch was then brought on as Capello went for the three points.

It was all England now as the USA looked visibly tired. A great counter-attacking move involving Lampard, Rooney and Lennon had the fans' heart in their mouths but as the final pass was played back across goal, Lampard couldn't make the connection after some great defending by DeMerit.

It wasn't to be though and despite England attempting to pile on pressure in the closing stages, the USA defended resolutely and held out for the point.

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