Slovenia 2 – 2 USA
USA and Slovenia drew a pulsating game 2-2, with the Americans forced into a second half comeback after conceding twice in the first half.
Slovenia took the lead through Valter Birsa before Zlatan Ljubijankic doubled their lead just before half time. the USA fought back in the second period, aided by an early goal from Landon Donovan, and earned a deserved second when Michael Bradley finished off Jozy Altidore’s knockdown.
It could have got even better for the USA when Maurice edu scored with five minutes remaining, but his goal was ruled out by the Malian official for a foul in the box.
Following their 1-0 victory over Algeria, Slovenia coach Matjaz Kek made one change to his team, dropping Dedic to the bench and replacing him with Zlatan Ljubijankic. before the game they knew that a victory over the USA would be enough for guarantee them qualification for the last sixteen.
Bidding to build on their 1-1 draw with England, the USA replaced Ricardo Clark with more creative Jose Torres in midfield and kept in tacked the forward line of Jozy Altidore and Michael Finley with Landon Dovovan playing from the right hand side.
Slovenia Take Commanding Lead
The early going at Ellis Park was fairly slow and methodical as the USA and Slovenia felt each other out and tried to discover how willing their opposition would be to throw men forward into the attack.
Despite some early pressure from the US, the Slovenians started the better of the two sides, displaying some slick passing and were rewarded for their efforts after 12 minutes when Walter Birsa scored the opening goal. the talented forward picked the ball up 25 yards out and curled a well struck effort past the stationary Tim Howard and into the back of the net to give Slovenia the lead.
The USA looked sluggish after conceding such a well taken goal and it was only ten minutes before half time that they really began to step up their game. A free kick from a tight angle on the right hand side saw Torres strike a good effort from on target which forced Hamdanovic into his first save of the game. From the resulting corner Jay DeMerrit came close to equalizing for the States but his firm header looped wide of the target and allowed Slovenia to recompose themselves after coming under heavy pressure.
Miso Brecko saved his side from being pegged back when he was able to nick the ball of Landon Donovan’s toes as the midfielder looked poised to score a crucial equalizer. Good interplay between Altidore and Dempsey set up the chance for Donovan, but quick thinking from the Slovenian defender saw him get a toe to the ball and prevent the USA from scoring.
A minute later, and four before half time, the Slovenian’s scored their second goal of the game through Ljubijankic. After absorbing heavy pressure from their opponents Slovenia counter attacked and a pass from Novakovic put midfielder Ljubjankic through on goal. Keeping his cool the midfielder side-footed the ball past Tim Howard to give his side a wonderful boost heading into half time.
USA Mount an Unlikely Comeback
Knowing that they needed an early boost in the second half, the American’s came out determined to get themselves back into the game.
They didn’t have to wait long for the goal they needed to claw themselves back into contention as after just two minutes of the second period Landon Donovan, released down the right hand side, cut into the box and blasted past the goalkeeper from an extremely narrow angle.
The goal was nothing less than Donovan deserved for his performance, and now the USA felt that the momentum was with them as the game began to open up. Slovenia were not content to just sit back and soak up the pressure however. With their advantage halved after 47 minutes they pressed forward to score the vital next goal, but it was the USA who continued to create the best chances.
A shot from Jozy Altidore in the 65th minute required a smart save from goalkeeper Handanovic, and the Villereal player continued to cause problems as USA went close again when a shot from Donovan flashed across goal.
The Americans persistance paid off in the 81st minute when a knock down from Altidore fell perfectly into the path of the breaking Michael Bradley who steered the ball past the goalkeeper and into the net to level the match. the initiative was now fully on the Americans and on 84 minutes they were unfortunate not to take the lead when a goal from Maurice edu was chalked off for a foul in the penalty area.
A free kick played in by Donovan was volleyed home by edu inside the six yard box, and despite replays showing evidence to the contrary, the referee decided that he had gained an unfair advantage by fouling his marker.
Despite being largely on the back foot in the second half, Slovenia were able to force Howard into two late saves as the game’s balance swung back in their favor. A header from Novakovic drifted just wide in the 87th minute and in the final action of the game the USA goalkeeper was forced into tipping a Radosavljevic to safety to ensure his side collected a point.
Man of the Match
Jozy Altidore (USA)
Whilst teammate Landon Donovan will likely see praise heaped upon his shoulders for leading the USA back into the game, it was the presense of Altidore which constantly unsettled the Slovenians and sparked a comeback. Half time seemed to transform the forward’s performance as his willing running created panic in the European side’s backline and presented the USA with a number of their notable second half opportunities.
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