There were plenty of chances throughout and both sides hit the woodwork, but it seemed that neither side would find a crucial winner. But deep into injury time, Landon Donovan popped up to strike a historic goal.
Algeria may not have shown much intent against England, but they were quickly onto the front foot against the Americans. Straight from kick-off a long ball forward picked out Rafik Djebbour, whose knockdown found Karim Matmour but the striker volleyed spectacularly over.
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In the early stages of the match, the States were limited, lacking incision in the final third of the pitch. Les Fennecs were rather more direct, shooting at every opportunity, though too often feebly.
With 20 minutes played, finally the USA created a clear chance. A strong break down the centre of the field from Michael Bradley was strongly arrested by a fine challenge but the ball broke kindly to Gomez, whose initially shot was blocked by M’Bolhi. The rebound fell kindly for the striker, whose shot-come-cross was tapped home by Clint Dempsey, whose effort was wrongly disallowed for offside.
Penetrative play became increasing rare as the half wore on. The Stars and Stripes enjoyed the better of the possession and territory, but it was the North Africans who were looking more purposeful when attacking.
Ten minutes before the interval, the USA would create another wonderful chance. Landon Donovan had flashed in and out of the game in the early stages but released a terrific pass to Bradley. The midfielder’s first touch was excellent but Madjid Bougherra’s presence was enough to take some of the sting from the shot, which was saved.
Moments later Jose Altidore had one of the misses of the World Cup. Another strong run from Bradley allowed the coach’s son to pick out Donovan, who eliminated the goalkeeper with a little dink. From no more than six yards, the Villarreal forward lashed over the top with only a couple of defenders to beat on the line.
Efforts from range were very much the order of the day, and strikes from Karim Matmour and Dempsey were both denied by saves prior to the interval.
Landon's hope brings glory | Donovan's late strike took States from third to first
Rabah Saadane’s side came out after the interval with intent, but they lacked the creativity to really create a string of chances. Matmour was caught offside when seemingly through on goal before Rafik Halliche headed off-target.
The USA nearly struck the opening goal totally against the run of play. Altidore’s pace carried him clear of Bougherra down the left hand side, allowing the attacker to pick out Dempsey on the edge of the area. With time to spare the midfielder took aim, but shot against the inside of the post and then sliced wide of an open goal from a tight angle when the ball had the good grace to bounce back to him.
Play switched quickly from end-to-end, but both defences were a credit to their side, with a sliding clearance from Carlos Bocanegra from a Belhadj cross especially impressive. Algeria goalkeeper M’Bolhi then blocked a dangerous cut-back from substitute Benny Feilhaber as the game grew increasingly stretched and frantic.
Halfway through the second period, the Stars and Stripes missed a glorious chance. Steve Cherundolo’s centre was thumped goalward by Edson Buddle, though M’Bolhi was well positioned to make a block. Play quickly shifted to the opposite penalty box, but Ziani dragged his shot wide.
Algeria still offered a meaningful threat on the counter, with Yebda shooting over and Abdelkader Ghezzal firing into the arms of Howard.
The USA were still doing much of the pressing, but their star men were being kept quiet. Bradley stuck a free kick sweetly but it was straight at M’Bolhi, who punched clear. A similar chance was smacked wildly over by Dempsey and Buddle wasted an opportunity when played in behind the Algerian defence by a long punt.
A goal seemed that it wasn’t arriving, but as play became broken in stoppage time, the USA countered at an exposed Algerian defence down the right. Though an initial shot was blocked by the custodian, Donovan followed up to smash low into the net.
For a long period of the game, it seemed the USA lacked the quality in front of goal to book a place in the last 16, but the Stars and Stripes’ record scorer came up trumps with their World Cup hopes preparing to die.