Matjaz Kek’s side looked to have the game won at half-time, but the Stars and Stripes battled back well...
World Cup 2010 Fixtures & Results
Slovenia were denied a place in the last 16 of the World Cup by a fine USA comeback. Having slumped to a 2-0 deficit at the interval, Bob Bradley’s men responded superbly after the break to earn a 2-2 draw.
It was Slovenia who showed better in the first half, deservedly leading thanks to goals from Valter Birsa and Milivoje Novakovic, but Landon Donovan’s powerful shot from a tough angle pulled the Stars and Stripes back into the game just after the restart.The expectation in the early stages of the game was that the Europeans would sit back and simply soak up pressure, but that wasn’t the case. Matjaz Kek’s outfit looked the livelier side are a stodgy, disjointed start to the match.
Zlatan Ljubijankic headed a free kick over the American goal before a cross from Birsa nearly picked out Milivoje Novakovic. Slowly the pressure was building, yet there seemed to be little danger when Birsa gathered possession 25 yards from goal and smacked a swerving drive past the impassive Tim Howard.
Though Jose Altidore, Robbie Findlay and Landon Donovan injected moments of pace into the USA’s offence, these were all too fleeting. Samir Handanovic in the Slovenian goal would enjoy a relatively easy start. The goalkeeper had to crane his neck to see a Michael Bradley drive fly over and he spectacularly punched away a dangerous free kick but was otherwise unemployed.
Slovenia weren’t looking especially likely to add to their tally, though a Birsa free kick did force Howard to crumple to his right in order to make a routine save. At the same time, they were entirely comfortable, with the midfield dominant and able to keep possession under surprisingly little pressure. Neither enterprising nor defensive, the Europeans seemed to have the game in their grasp.
Ten minutes before the interval, Altidore would charge down the right on one of his positive runs. The Villarreal forward would a foul from Bostjan Cesar. From the resultant free kick, Francisco Torres, who until that point had been unimpressive, drove a dangerous shot at goal that was pushed away by Handanovic.
In the ensuing minutes, the North Americans twice went close. Jay DeMerit had a head loop wide, while Bojan Jokic and Miso Brecko twice made crucial interceptions when it seemed that the USA, who were suddenly finding room and rhythm, must score.
On the counterattack, Slovenia doubled their advantage three minutes before the break. Ljubijankic cut the American defence in two with a through ball to Novakovic, who finished neatly.
Playing with more pace and fluidity, the Stars and Stripes were looking purposeful, but the well organised Slovenian defence marshalled the Americans well. Altidore seemed to get away from Marko Suler but didn’t have the confidence to really drive in on goal when it seemed that he would have a great chance of scoring, while the Europeans looked to have some teeth in their breaks.
Midway through the second period, Altidore was cynically brought down at the edge of the box by Suler. Though Donavan’s free kick was mediocre, in the ensuing melee Altidore fired a powerful shot at goal that would surely have found the net had it been directed anywhere but the midriff of Handanovic.
The Slovenian defence was stoical, preventing the States from working clean shooting opportunities. A hopeful Altidore shot that drifted well wide from an improbable position on the corner of the box rather summed up the American effort.
Bradley had an altogether more presentable effort, but his drive from 25-yards was saved comfortably.
Literally seconds later, the coach’s son had the ball in the Slovenian net. A high ball forward was knocked down to Bradley, who timed his run into the box brilliantly. Despite leaning back and stretching desperately to reach the ball, the Borussia Moenchengladbach midfielder powered the ball high into the net.
And the USA seemed to have the game won when Maurice Edu thumped home a Donovan free kick from close range, although the goal was disallowed for a seemingly non-existent foul – the only mistake Malian referee Koman Coulibaly made during the game.
Slovenia showed their resilience would couple of good late efforts, but Howard pushed away a firmly struck Aleksander Radosavljevic drive to ensure his side’s comeback wasn’t to naught.
With two Group C matches played, Slovenia now have four points, while the USA have just two and will surely need to beat Algeria on Matchday 3 to progress.