Ghana, Australia in draw

Australia overcame the first-half
dismissal of Harry Kewell to battle for a draw against Ghana that keeps their
slim hopes of reaching the World Cup second round alive.

The Socceroos, hammered 4-0 by
Germany in their opening Group D game, took an early lead through Brett Holman
before former Liverpool forward Kewell was shown a straight red for a handball
on the goal-line and Asamoah Gyan slotted home his second penalty of the
tournament.

But an inexperienced Ghana side
struggled against 10 men, showing limited imagination and resorting to shot
after shot from long range.

And it was Australia who came
closest to winning the match when Luke Wilkshire failed to beat Black Stars
goalkeeper Richard Kingston when clean through on goal.

It was an impressive display from
the Australians who had been lambasted by their national press after a meek
opening performance and suffered the hammer blow of having a key man sent off
for the second game in a row.

The Socceroos could still emulate their
2006 effort of reaching last 16 in South Africa if they defeat Serbia in their
final game on Wednesday, while Ghana need only a point against the Germans to
advance.

While injuries to captain John
Mensah and Isaac Vorsah forced Ghana boss Milan Rajevac to field an
inexperienced centre-back pairing of Lee Addy and Jonathan Mensah, under-fire
Australia coach Pim Verbeek made four changes to the side that lost to Germany
with Kewell called in to lead the attack.

And Kewell was immediately in the
thick of the action, going down twice inside the area in the first 10 minutes
but seeing both his penalty appeals turned down by Italian referee Roberto
Rosetti.

The Socceroos had reason to thank
the official shortly afterwards when he awarded the free-kick from which they
took the lead.

Mark Bresciano’s 30-yard strike
bounced awkwardly in front of Kingston, but the keeper should have done more
than just parrying the ball straight in front of him. Holman reacted quickest
to clip the loose ball into the top corner.

Kingston has played more for his
country than his club in the last four years and his sloppy work provided
another page in the catalogue of goalkeeping gaffes at this World Cup.

Ghana, the only African team to win
at the tournament so far, reacted with a series of pacy attacks and they did
not have to wait long for their equaliser.

Andre Ayew showed great
determination to work some space for himself on the byline and produce a
measured cut-back to Mensah, whose powerful goalbound shot struck Kewell on the
arm.

Kewell protested that the ball had
hit his chest and implored the referee to watch the replay on the big screen
but when the incident was shown again it entirely vindicated the decision to
award a penalty and show the Australia frontman a red card.

Gyan sent Socceroos keeper Mark
Schwarzer the wrong way from the spot.

The Black Stars initially made the
most of their extra man, using the full width of the pitch to stretch
Australia, and Rajevac’s men could have gone ahead shortly before half-time.

Portsmouth’s Kevin-Prince Boateng
worked his way into the box and unleashed a right-footed shot that was
brilliantly tipped around the post by Schwarzer, who had to be at his best once
again shortly after the break to claw away a curler from Gyan.

Ghana seemed to lose their way as
the game wore on, running out of ideas and firing speculative shots from
distance which were often embarrassingly off target.

The Africans’ profligacy seemed to
awaken their opponents’ senses to the possibility that they could still win the
game and the Socceroos came close on two occasions.

First Scott Chipperfield headed
over the bar, and then Wilkshire found acres of space in the box, but his shot
was smothered by Kingston, who was on hand to gather Josh Kennedy’s follow-up
effort.

But Ghana ended the game the
stronger side with Mensah heading over from Sulley Muntari’s cross and
Schwarzer pulling off a one-handed save to keep out Quincy Owusu-Abeyie’s
long-range strike.

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