A howler from Robert Green gave United States a share of the spoils in the Group C encounter, after England skipper Steven Gerrard gave his side an early lead.
England manager Fabio Capello decided to start James Milner on the left hand side in the absence of injured midfielder Gareth Barry, while Heskey partnered Rooney in attack. Robert Green was given the nod ahead of both, David James and Joe Hart, in a move which would prove to be very costly for England.
England had a dream start to their campaign and it was through their newly appointed captain Steven Gerrard. Heskey picked up a loose ball with his back towards goal and laid it onto the path of his former Liverpool team-mate, who took a touch and finished nonchalantly beyond Tim Howard to put England ahead inside four minutes.
USA gathered themselves after the early blow by having decent possession in England’s half but the move ended with Dempsey’s weak header going straight into Green’s arms. Glenn Johnson also sent his shot high over the bar at the other end of the pitch.
Altidore should have put United States level as Donovan delivered a tempting cross in the area, but the youngster’s glancing header from six yards out went agonizingly wide of the post.
Donovan continued to cause problems for England with his accurate crossing. This time, central defender Oguchi Onyewu saw his header whistle past the face of goal. Emile Heskey, on the other end, was slow in getting to a low cross, delivered by Johnson across the face of goal. Landon Donovan then had a shot from thirty yards out which beat Green but also went wide of the post.
Then came a moment which could well have ended Robert Green’s World Cup campaign. Clint Dempsey hit a speculative shot from outside the area straight at the England keeper but a lack of concentration from the West Ham keeper resulted in the ball slipping from his hands and rolling into the back of the net. The English media may already have found a scapegoat for their nations possible failure, but one cannot make any excuses on behalf of Green for letting a harmless shot through his hands.
Johnson tried to respond immediately for England, when he cut inside from the touchline but his left-footed shot was well saved by Tim Howard. Half time arrived with no further chances for either team in the dying moments of the first half. However, it signaled the end of Ledley King’s contribution. He was replaced by Jamie Carragher.
Costly for England, Capello and Green!
England started the second half brightly by maintaining possession in their opponent’s half but could not create a clear-cut opportunity as the final ball was lacking. Heskey had a glorious chance to put the three lions ahead when he was clean through on goal, only to hit his shot straight at Tim Howard.
Lampard was next to test Howard as his fierce shot from outside the area was tipped over the bar by the American. Off an England corner, Johnson also sent his snap-shot wide of the post. England were then given a scare by Jozy Altidore but Robert Green came to their rescue this time around. The former Hull City forward burst past substitute Carragher and was clean through on goal, but England’s first half villain parried his shot onto the post and to safety.
Rooney, who was kept in-check for most of the game by USA’s star defender Onyewu, got a chance to put England ahead with fifteen minutes left on the clock, but his long range screamer went agonizingly wide of the post. He then, almost immediately, put Wright-Phillips clean through on goal, but the substitute could only manage to hit his shot straight at Howard.
Both teams settled for a draw in the dying minutes. The Americans, quite bizarrely, attempted to make a substitution right on the final whistle.
TheHardTackle’s Player Of The Match Oguchi Onyewu (USA) The United States centre-back proved to be a rock for his team thwarting England’s attacks all game long. He was a commanding presence in the box and typified the US aggression through his tackles. He was also the main reason Rooney wasn’t seen much on the ball.
TheHardTackle’s Refree Report Card Carlos Eugenio Simon – Grade: A He did not have many controversial decisions to make. He got his yellow cards spot on and tolerated no nonsense from the English players.
ENGLAND 1-1 USA
Venue: Royal Bafokeng Arena, Rustenburg
England Line-Up: Green, Johnson, King (Carragher 45’), Terry, A.Cole, Lennon, Lampard, Gerrard, Milner (Wright-Phillips 30’), Heskey (Crouch 79’), Rooney
Manager: Fabio Capello
Caution: Carragher, Gerrard, Milner
USA Line-Up: Howard, Onyewu, DeMerit, Bocanegra, Cherundolo, Clark, Bradly, Dempsey, Donovan, Altidore (Holden 86′), Findley (Buddle 77′)
Manager: Bob Bradely
Caution: DeMerit, Cherundolo, Findley