Goalkeeper blunder hands US 1-1 draw with England

The United States held England to a 1-1 draw in the World Cup

Group C opener Saturday, with a stunning blunder by English

goalkeeper Robert Green costing his team victory.

An apparently harmless 25-meter (yard) left-foot shot from Clint

Dempsey in the 40th minute went straight at Green but the ball

bounced off his right glove and trickled over the line for an

equalizer.

“It’s one of those that you see and people say, ‘How come that

never happens to me,”’ Dempsey said. “Finally, it’s a goal that

probably the ‘keeper should have made a save on. They all count the

same when they go in.”

Green seemed confident he wouldn’t be scarred by it.

“It was a mistake. The important thing is not to let it affect

you,” Green was quoted as saying. “That is what you prepare for

mentally. You don’t prepare mentally for making great saves and

playing the perfect game. You prepare for trauma.

“It won’t affect me psychologically.”

England captain Steven Gerrard had given England the lead in the

fourth, charging into the area and shooting with the outside of his

foot past Tim Howard for his 17th international goal.

England, pursuing its first World Cup title since 1966, created

more chances but the Americans held firm under pressure with a

string of saves from Howard, who was voted player of the match.

“It was a difficult game,” Gerrard said. “I think the

important thing in the first game is not to lose.”

Green’s error brought looks of dismay from English fans who were

a majority in the sellout crowd of more than 38,000 at the Royal

Bafokeng Stadium.

But England manager Fabio Capello refused to censure his

goalkeeper, publicly at least.

“He made one mistake but in the second half he also made a good

save,” Capello told a news conference. “This is football. The

most important thing is the score at the end of the game.”

Gerrard saw Green’s error as the game’s turning point.

“Unfortunately we’ve let a poor goal in and we couldn’t go on and

get the winner,” he said. “The goal shocked us a bit. … It took

us a while to get over it.”

England won nine of its 10 qualifying games to secure a spot in

South Africa but in warmup games ahead of the tournament it

recorded a series of uninspired performances.

At the final whistle, American fans applauded and waved their

flags as their team came over to greet them, while the English

supporters stood mostly in silence after their team filed off the

field with heads bowed.

“Our first game is still about getting something, but when you

go behind early, I thought the response was good,” U.S. coach Bob

Bradley said. “I think after the goal, we started to put some

plays together and built up confidence.”

Bradley commended his players on holding their own against the

more favored England team.

“It was a fast, hard game and we were pleased with the way our

midfield was able to compete with England,” he said.

Green’s slip recalled a similar mistake by Scott Carson against

Croatia which denied England a place at the 2008 European

Championship.

The goalkeeping position has long been England’s weakest link.

Paul Robinson, who started at the 2006 World Cup, lost his place

after a series of errors. David James was on the bench in

Rustenburg despite his nickname “Calamity.”

Dempsey became only the second American to score in two World

Cups. He also scored in the 2006 tournament.

“At least we got a point, that’s the positive,” Dempsey said.

“We’ve got to go out and win these next two games.”

Both countries can still claim one of the group’s top two places

and advance to the next round. The other two teams in the group,

Algeria and Slovenia, play Sunday. Both are regarded as weaker

teams than England or the U.S..

Gerrard’s early strike helped settle the England team while the

Americans struggled to find any rhythm.

The United States had little to show for its efforts before its

goal. The best chances came from headers as playmaker Landon

Donovan twice set up Jozy Altidore to head wide.

Wayne Rooney, regarded as England’s most threatening player, saw

little of the ball and had little impact on the match. He traveled

to South Africa after being dogged by injuries that prevented him

from helping Manchester United’s failed bid to win the Premier

League and Champions League.

Emile Heskey slammed into Howard in the 29th, hitting the

goalkeeper in the chest with the toe of his boot as both went to

meet a low cross from Aaron Lennon.

Heskey, making his first start since October, broke clear in the

52nd but shot straight at Howard, who came sprinting to the edge of

the penalty area.

Howard was called into action again soon after as he tipped an

effort from Frank Lampard over the bar, and at the other end Green

deflected a shot from Altidore onto the crossbar in the 65th.

Rooney almost connected with a cross from Gerrard at the back

post, and then set up substitute Shaun Wright-Phillips for a clear

shot from the left which Howard stopped.

Capello cranked up the pressure late in the match, bringing on

the lanky Peter Crouch with 10 minutes remaining to supply Rooney

with more possession, but there was no way through the American

defense.

Lineups:

England: Robert Green, Glen Johnson, John Terry, Ledley King

(Jamie Carragher, 45), Ashley Cole, Aaron Lennon, Steven Gerrard,

Frank Lampard, James Milner (Shaun Wright-Phillips, 31), Wayne

Rooney, Emile Heskey (Peter Crouch, 79).

United States: Tim Howard, Steve Cherundolo, Jay DeMerit, Oguchi

Onyewu, Carlos Bocanegra, Landon Donovan, Michael Bradley, Ricardo

Clark, Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore (Stuart Holden, 86), Robbie

Findley (Edson Buddle, 77).