World Cup: Portugal score late to deny USA famous win

Clint Dempsey celebrates his goal to the US 2-1 ahead.

Clint Dempsey celebrates putting the US 2-1 ahead.

The United States conceded a dramatic last minute equaliser as Portugal snatched a draw from the jaws of defeat and denied the US what would have been a famous win.

Portugal took the lead after just five minutes when US defender Geoff Cameron failed to properly clear a cross it fell for Nani at the back post and the Manchester United winger made no mistake with the finish, firing the ball past Tim Howard.

The USMNT reacted well to going behind. They moved the ball well, created space and weren’t afraid to shoot from distance and, as halftime approached, they threatened an equaliser.

Clint Dempsey was denied by some desperate defending and Fabian Johnson’s long distance drive left the keeper stranded as it flashed inches wide of the post.

However, Portugal could have made it 2-0 before the halftime as a counter attack lead by Cristiano Ronaldo found Nani whose shot was well saved by Howard.

There’s been a lot of talk about Ronaldo at this world cup, many are questioning his fitness and he certainly didn’t look 100% when, on the 42nd minute, he stepped up to take one of his trademark free kicks only to blaze the ball high and far away from goal.

Just a minute before the break Howard made world class saves to keep the score at 1-0, first he got a strong hand from another long distance effort from Nani, pushing the ball onto the post, he then recovered to tip Eder’s rebound over the bar, the Portuguese striker looked certain to score.

Jurgen Klinsmann’s men had a huge chance to draw the scores level ten minutes into the second half when Johnson got behind the defence, drew the keeper out of goal and found Michael Bradley eight yards from goal, the striker’s shot was cleared off the line by Ricardo Costa.

Questions about Ronaldo’s fitness continued as this years Ballon D’Or winner got in behind the US defence only to scuff his shot well wide of the goal.

It was a miss that Portugal would be punished for, just minutes later the US equalised in spectacular fashion. When the Europeans failed to clear a cross the ball fell for Jermaine Jones who created a yard of space and shot from 25 yards, Portugal keeper Beto could only stand and watch as the ball zipped into the net.

Portugal nearly retook the lead just a minute later but more superb goalkeeping from Howard, who made his 102nd appearance for his country tonight, denied Raul Meireles and kept the score at 1-1.

With just 10 minutes to go the US took a dramatic lead through their starman, a neat team move lead to a cross, Bradley shanked his shot and it fell for Jones who flashed the ball across the face of goal where Dempsey poked the ball into the net with his hip.

It was unexpected, scrappy and no where near as easy on the eye as the equaliser had been but Dempsey, the thousands of US fans in the stadium and the millions at home will not care.

Just when it looked like they had weathered the storm and held on to what would have been a famous victory in the final minute of stoppage time Ronaldo whipped a pinpoint cross into the box and Silvestre Varela put his header past Howard to snatch victory from the US.

While a draw tonight favors the US their work in the group stages is not complete. They face joint leaders Germany in the last group game, with both sides on four points after the first two games only a big win, one that would better the US’ goal difference, for either Ghana or Portugal in the other game can knock the US out should they lose to the Germans.

Should the US draw with, or even beat the Germans in the last game, they will qualify for the next round as it will put their point tally out of reach for the other two sides.