World Cup 2010 - Australia dig deep for draw

Sat, 19 Jun 16:55:00 2010

Ten-man Australia battled to a deserved point in a pulsating 1-1 draw with Ghana in World Cup Group D at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg.

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Brett Holman capitalised on a goalkeeping error to put the Socceroos into an early lead but the dismissal of Harry Kewell for handball on 24 minutes led to Asamoah Gyan's equaliser from the penalty spot.

Despite their man advantage for the majority of the game, Ghana failed to capitalise and, with Australia mounting a late bid to grab a late winner, could even have dropped to defeat.

While it was an opportunity missed for the Ghanaians, the result nevertheless saw them move top of Group D on four points, one ahead of Germany and Serbia.

Australia picked up their first point of the tournament to boost their hopes of qualifying for the group stage, and there is still all to play for heading into the final pool game on Wednesday.

Australia, deprived of the suspended Tim Cahill and the injured Vince Grella, showed four changes to the team that capitulated 4-1 to Germany in their opening game.

In came Kewell, Holman, Mark Bresciano and David Carney and with Ghana missing their central defensive duo of John Mensah and Isaac Vorsah, the Socceroos started in confident fashion, with three of the new faces heavily involved early on.

In just the second minute, Kewell had a big penalty shout dismissed following a coming together in the box with Lee Addy, before Holman struck on 11 minutes to put his side into the lead.

The AZ Alkmaar striker was quickest to react as Bresciano's free-kick bounced just in front of Richard Kingson, who could only spill the ball into the space in front of him.

The goal settled any nerves that Australia may have been suffering from prior to kick-off and with Ghana offering little indication of attacking intent, Pim Verbeek's side looked well set for a victory that would have drawn them level on points with their three group rivals.

Yet the game was turned on its head in the 24th minute when Australia suffered the double whammy of being reduced to 10 men and conceding a goal.

Some persistent work from Dede Ayew on the by-line teed up the ball for Johnathan Mensah, who blasted the ball goalwards; his effort would have ended up in the back of the net had it not struck Kewell on his upper arm.

The referee correctly awarded a penalty and had no choice but to dismiss Kewell, who clearly did not agree with the decision and remonstrated vociferously before finally leaving the pitch.

Gyan ignored the protestations and made no mistake from 12 yards out, sending Schwarzer the wrong way to draw Ghana back onto level terms.

The goal completely changed the pattern of the match as Ghana were given more confidence to go forward, although their play still lacked urgency.

Australia dug deep and held firm, their experienced defence largely limiting the Black Stars to shots from distance.

And with the introduction of Scott Chipperfield and Josh Kennedy midway through the second half, Australia took the game to their opponents, Chipperfield heading over the bar with his first touch and Kennedy making a hash of a rebound after Luke Wilkshire had been played through on goal.

A third substitute Nikita Rukavytsya nearly got on the end of a near post cross as full-time approached, while late chances fell Ghana's way at the other end too, Mensah heading wide and Quincy Owusu-Abeyie seeing a shot tipped over the bar by Mark Schwarzer at the death.

But neither side could find a way through, and the game ended in a stalemate that sets up a thrilling night of action to come on Wednesday.

Match stats

Ghana v Australia

Goals 1-1

1st Half Goals 1-1

Shots on Target 5-4

Shots off Target 14-4

Blocked Shots 5-1

Corners 6-1

Fouls 22-18

Offsides 2-2

Yellow Cards 3-1

Red Cards 0-1

Passing Success 84.1%-75.4%

Tackles 14-12

Tackles Success 92.9-75

Possession 53.9%-46.1%

Territorial Advantage 55%-45%

Mike Hytner / Eurosport

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