Australia still alive
Australia's hopes of qualifying for the second round of the World Cup are still alive after a brave ten-man Qantas Socceroos side held on for a 1-1 draw against Ghana.
by Bren O'Brien in Rustenberg, Sportal
Australia's hopes of qualifying for the second round of the World Cup are still alive after a brave ten-man Qantas Socceroos side held on for a 1-1 draw against Ghana in Rustenburg on Saturday.
Australia's chances of progressing to the round of 16 depend on it winning against Serbia in Nelspruit on Wednesday and either Ghana beating Germany, or Germany beating Ghana and Australia making up a five goal difference on the African side.
It was a match of huge drama, with Australia taking the lead on 11 minutes through Brett Holman before Harry Kewell was sent off for a handball offence on the goalline 14 minutes later. Asamoah Gyan converted the penalty.
The Qantas Socceroos then weathered a Ghana storm late in the first half before dominating the match in the final 45. Luke Wilkshire could have won it, but his close-range shot was blocked in the 71st minute.
Australia, featuring four changes from the team which lost 4-0 to Germany, began brightly and in the second minute Kewell had a penalty appeal turned down after a tangle with Lee Addy.
Things were looking a little disorganised in the Ghanaian defence, with Addy and goalkeeper Richard Kingson missing things up and almost letting Kewell in.
Kingson was again at fault for the opening goal on 11 minutes, with Mark Bresciano talking a free kick and hitting it to the keeper on the bounce. He failed to deal with it and Holman latched onto the ball to score.
After its shaky start, Ghana began to work itself into the contest and on 20 minutes Andre Ayew has his shot deflected over by Lucas Neill. Neill was again on hand to deflect Gyan's first shot on goal.
However from that corner, some sensational build up work from Ayew, created an opening. He beat both Wilkshire and Brett Emerton and hit a great cross which Jonathan Mensah was there to meet at the far post.
His shot was blocked by Kewell on the line, with Italian referee Roberto Rosetti determining the Australian striker used his arm to prevent the goal-bound shot. He had little option but to point to the spot and give Kewell his marching orders.
Gyan stepped up to convert the penalty and Ghana had its tail up with 65 minutes remaining.
Minutes later Prince Tagoe narrowly missed with a shot while Kevin Prince Boateng's shot in the final moments of the half produced an excellent save from Mark Schwarzer.
Gyan proved more than handful for the Australian defence for much of the second half and on three separate occasions threatened to give his side the lead. He tested out Schwarzer twice in a 10 minute period before supplying a bullet like cross, which Kwadwoi Asamoah just missed making contact with.
However, the arrival of Josh Kennedy and Scott Chipperfield pulled the game back into Australia;s favour. Chipperfield launched himself onto a long cross and hheaded over before winning the ball back and setting Wilkshire up for a golden chance. However, with only the keeper to beat, he failed to get past Kingson, who redeemed himself for the earlier error. Kennedy failed to get any power on the rebound.
Brett Emerton had a free kick go over the bar, while sub Nikita Rukavytsya looked a chance to score before his challenge on Kingson was ruled too robust.
Mensah then hit a late shot just over the bar and it would end in a draw.
Australia: 1 (Holman 11) Ghana: 1 (Gyan 25p)
Crowd: 34,812 - At Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Rustenburg