England, U.S. settle nothing in Rustenburg
Goalkeeper Robert Green's stunning blunder cost England victory and forced his team to settle for a 1-1 draw with the United States in their World Cup opener Saturday.
An apparently harmless 25-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."
England captain Steven Gerrard had given England the lead in the fourth, charging into the penalty 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.
"Unfortunately we've let a poor goal in and we couldn't go on and get the winner," Gerrard said. "The goal shocked us a bit. … It took us a while to get over it."
Green's error brought looks of dismay from English fans who were a majority in the sellout crowd of 38,646 at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium.
"It was a difficult game," Gerrard said. "I think the important thing in the first game is not to lose."
At the final whistle, American fans applauded and waved 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," United States coach Bob Bradley said. "I think after the goal, we started to put some plays together and built up confidence."
Green's slip recalled a similar mistake by former goalkeeper Scott Carson against Croatia which denied England a place at the 2008 European Championship.
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."
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.
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.
England coach Fabio Capello cranked up the pressure late in the match, bringing on Peter Crouch with 10 minutes remaining to supply Rooney with more possession, but there was no way through the American defence.