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Match Report: Ghana 1-2 USA – Late Brooks header downs lively Ghanaians
It was at the Estadio das Dunas in Natal, where focus had returned to the ‘Group of Death’ and a World Cup grudge match between Ghana and the United States.
For the 3rd tournament running these two teams would square off with the USA having suffered defeats (and elimination) by a scoreline of 2-1 in both 2006 and 2010 to the Black Stars. With redemption on their minds the Americans set out to pressure Ghana early (and oh man… was it early).
The last line of The Star-Spangled Banner had barely left the lips of the near 20,000 American fans in Natal before Seattle Sounders forward Clint Dempsey had put the USA ahead with the 5th fastest goal in World Cup history at 32 seconds.
The ball would find its way to Besiktas midfielder Jermaine Jones who with his back to goal, shielded the ball and played a through ball into the path of Dempsey.
Dempsey’s first touch would spring him loose towards the edge of the box, exploiting the space between the right back and centre-back, where he would drag the ball onto his right foot and away from Ghanaian defender John Boye, follow that up by dragging the ball back to the left side of goal with his right boot before smashing it home with this left foot, low into the bottom right hand corner.
The United States suddenly found themselves in instant dream land and despite the fact that Ghana had begun to take control of possession appeared in high spirits. Unfortunately for the Americans, joy would turn to dread in the 20th minute when Sunderland FC forward and USA target man Jozy Altidore would pull up with an apparent hamstring injury.
The injury occurring when Altidore attempted a run down the left wing, heading the ball down into space before pulling up without contact and instantly grimacing on the pitch. Noticeable tears were in his eyes as he was taken off the pitch and focus will turn to his absence and what it means for the United States team going forward.
The game continued on as AZ Alkmaar forward Aron Johannsson would enter to replace the injured Altidore. The game carried on for the Americans in a fashion characteristic of a team disheveled. Having lost Altidore up top and without a like replacement, Jurgen Klinsmann’s team were forced to make on the fly adjustments.
Ghana would threaten and control possession throughout the 1st half with several half-chances taken by former Sunderland striker Asamoah Gyan that would either be blasted over or easily saved by USA goalkeeper Tim Howard. The United States looked content in dropping deep and allowing the Ghanaians to shoot from range throughout the rest of first half as they looked to regroup at half time.
The half would end with yet another injury in the middle of the field for the Americans as this time, Sporting Kansas City center-half Matt Besler would pull up with another apparent hamstring injury. After trying to play through it in the last few minutes of stoppage time, Besler was unfortunately forced off as a reported “precaution” at halftime.
Play would resume in the 2nd half as 21-year old Hertha BSC defender John Anthony Brooks would come on to replace the aforementioned Besler and make his World Cup debut. It was a rocky start for Brooks when his first attempted clearance was scuffed and nearly put Ghana in on goal before he was able to recover and force a free-kick.
More of the same continued for Ghana as they took the game to the Americans, with the United States doing little in holding possession and struggling to clear out of their defensive 3rd.
Former Chelsea man Michael “The Bison” Essien would enter for Ghana in the 71st minute as the Black Stars looked to have him drop deep to collect and distribute forward for the attackers.
Ghana would pull things level in the 82nd minute for Ghana after a half of unrelenting pressure. The United States players who had done well all night to cut off angles and force long shots from the Ghana attack began to show a bit of tiredness on defense late on.
Olympique Marseille man Andrew Ayew would receive a pass off of a back-heel from Gyan on the left hand side of the box and in a quasi-movement to Dempsey’s effort in the first half he cut in towards Everton stalwart Tim Howard’s goal before blasting his shot near post instead to make the score 1-1.
It looked destined to turn out bad for the Americans for a 3rd World Cup running against the Black Stars as another quick attack by Ghana down the right wing nearly led to a chance for Gyan.
The United States attack started to come alive around the 85th minute, with a sudden burst of energy down the right wing affording the Americans some much needed possession in their attacking 3rd. A ball played in towards Fabian Johnson on the right side of the box looked destined for a Ghana throw-in as Jonathan Mensah set up to shield the ball away from the Hoffenheim defender and out for a throw. As the two tangled for the ball, both became off balance with Johnson hitting the deck and Mensah falling backwards as the Evian defender stumbled towards the goal-line, the ball bounced up off his shin before trickling out for a very crucial American corner.
The ensuing corner would be taken by American substitute Sporting K.C. midfielder Graham Zusi from the right hand side in the 86th minute. Zusi’s kick swung outward towards the 6-yard box away from the goalkeeper, over the head of a doubly marked Geoff Cameron’s head before dropping for an unmarked Brooks who headed his effort hard and into the turf in front of Ghanaian goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey.
The momentum of the ball carried it past the stunned Ghanaian defense to put the United States up 2-1 with only minutes remaining. John Anthony Brooks’ effort would earn him the distinction of being the first American substitute to ever score in a World Cup and secured a vital opening 3 points for the USA.