Goal-keeping Blunder Costs England
England goalkeeper Robert Green stands dejected after his mistake leads to USA's equalising goal for Clint Dempsey
A school-boy error by Robert Green enabled the USA to grab a share of the spoils in a 1-1 Group C draw against England at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg on Saturday night.
England, who enjoyed the better of play and the more numerous chances throughout the 90 minutes, scored an early goal through skipperSteven Gerrard, but Greenís howler allowed Clint Dempsey to level matters just before the break.
But in the end some solid defending by the US, from AC Milan central defender Oguchi Onyewu in particular, coupled with some poor finishing, meant a potential three points became only one.
James Milner was the surprise face in the England starting XI, the Aston Villa midfielder starting ahead of Joe Cole, while as expected Emile Heskey started up front alongside Wayne Rooney.
Heskey has more than his fair share of critics, but the Aston Villa striker showed exactly why coach Fabio Capello has faith in him when he played a pivotal role in securing a dream start for England.
Before four minutes were even on the clock the powerfully-built veteran striker received the ball 25-yards out with his back to goal and then played in the perfect ball for Steven Gerrard, who took one touch before putting away a trademark finish with the outside of his right boot past Tim Howard.
The first half was certainly an exciting affair, packed with action and incident, and relatively evenly balanced overall.
It all looked good for the 1966 World Cup champions early on, but after Dempsey headed straight at Green in the 11th minute, Americaís first chance saw them gradually growing in confidence and coming into their own.
Eight minutes later there was an excellent chance for the Stars and Stripes, but Jozy Altidore couldnít provide the finishing touch as his header from Landon Donovanís outstanding cross flashed wide.
England though managed to get a couple of telling crosses into the box, a dangerous ball in the 29th minute resulting in Howard receiving treatment for several minutes after he bravely saved at the feet of a sliding Heskey.
Capello showed his tactical acumen after just 31 minutes when he ended Milnerís evening, bringing on Shaun Wright Phillips - the left wing already having been booked and struggling to contain US right back Steve Cherundolo.
The pressure soon increased from Bob Bradleyís men as Donovan sent a dipping drive inches wide of goal which saw Green scrambling try and cover his angles.
And in the 40th minute it was Green the USA had to thank as the West Ham keeper committed a real howler, allowing what should have been a routine save to slip through his fingers after Dempsey had been given time and space to fire in on goal, although it was a pretty tame effort from the Fulham attacker.
There was no danger of the second half failing to match the excitement of the first stanza as the second period delivered thrilling action and goal chances on a regular basis.
England started positively and in the 47th minute Aaron Lennon showed great pace to get to the by-line, but his pull back went behind the awaiting Rooney.
Five minutes later Heskey showed the other side of his character when he missed a guilt edged opportunity to put the Three Lions back in front, firing straight at Howard after Lennonís clever ball had seen him clear through on goal.
Further chances followed for England as Howard was forced to tip over from Frank Lampard while Johnson posed several questions down the right.
England, and Green, were lucky though not to concede a 65th minute goal when Altidore left Jamie Carragher for dead, but then saw his shot rebound off the post via a weak attempt at a save from Green.
With 20 minutes to go England stepped it up a notch, with Rooney just not able to get enough on Gerrardís back post cross before he sent a swerving shot from 30-yards just wide of goal with Howard struggling to make up the ground.
Wright-Phillips and Heskey then also had opportunities for England, but a second goal continued to elude them.
The game remained fast paced and intriguing until the final whistle, but England, despite the efforts of substitute Peter Crouch, were unable to fashion any decent chances in the closing stages of play, being forced to settle for a 1-1 draw.
With games to come against Algeria and Slovenia, it was not a bad result for England, but based on the number of clear-cut chances they had and the nature of the goal conceded, Capello and his men are sure to be highly disappointed.