It was one more game in which both sides fought valiantly and both sides refused to give up. At the end, the result, 1-1, was a fair representation of both sides’ efforts. Pity about the refereeing, again.
Following the heavy defeat by Germans in the first round, not too many pundits could see the Australian team bouncing back in any meaningful manner. But bounce back they did: their 12th minute lead came as a surprise to everyone but the Aussie team, it seems. And just as Ghana started to claw its way back into the game, there came another one of the defining moments we’ve learnt to expect from refereeing in this World Cup:
Mensah’s sharp shot from some eight metres was flying straight into the net, only to be stopped there by Harry Kewell. The ball, as fast as it was, seemingly hit his arm. Referee Rosetti had no qualms about awarding a penalty to the Ghanaians and red-carding a shocked Kewell, who repeatedly asked him to see the reply. And if Mr Rosetti actually saw the detailed slo-mo, he would have almost certainly not made the decision that ended up standing and changed the complexion of the game. Strangely enough, just a split-second before, Aussie captain Neal committed a foul on Asamoah that should have been a penalty, but no one would have been red-carded.
The bad refereeing robs the both teams in the game, even as one of them end up with one player more. Some part of the magic is lost: the essence of every game, the very source of soccer’s magic is to have two sides of almost equal strength, when both of them can win and have to play their hearts out to succeed. Being given a numerical advantage or handicap is simply not good.
Photo: Ghana’s goalkeeper Richard Kingson makes a save while watched by Australia’s Luke Wilkshire (8) during a 2010 World Cup Group D soccer match at Royal Bafokeng stadium in Rustenburg June 19, 2010. REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won
As Kewell was banished to exile, and Gyan coolly converted the penalty, it was reasonable to expect that Ghana would now dominate the rest of the match. And yet, somehow it turned not to be exactly like that, even as the Australian team was now seriously lacking an attacking specialist. What they lacked in numbers, the Aussies richly made up in courage. They managed to play 75 minutes, during which not for a second were they the junior partner in a great match. Having brilliant Mark Schwarzer as the goalkeeper also richly helped.
Even as all the games in Rustenburg appear to be destined for 1-1 draw, this one was different. Both teams played strongly and honestly and it was truly obvious.
With Serbia’s win over Germany and Ghana’s draw with Australia, Group D is now wide open. Hopefully, the Ghanaians will find energy in their young feet to send Germany to World Cup 2010 oblivion. Now, wouldn’t that be a great picture?
Here are the reporter’s notes:
Ghana: Richard Kingson, John Pantsil, Jonathan Mensah, Lee Addy, Hans Sarpei, Prince Tagoe, Anthony Annan, Kwadwo Asamoah, Kevin-Prince Boateng, André Ayew, Asamoah Gyan; Coach: Milovan Rajevac (Serbia)
Australia: Mark Schwarzer, Luke Wilkshire, Lucas Neill, Craig Moore, David Carney, Brett Emerton, Jason Culina, Brett Holman, Carl Valeri, Mark Bresciano, Harry Kewell; Coach: Pim Verbeek (Holland)
Man of the match
Before the match
Aussie coach Verbeek had no choice but to include Harry Kewell, whose fitness is under serious doubt and is mostly a mid-fielder. Essentially, Australia will play today without a real, true-blue forward. And their team is one of the oldest. Hmmm.
- 2nd minute: Kewell asks for penalty kick after Lee Addy collided with him on the right-hand side of Ghana’s penalty box. Referee Roberto Rosetti is not interested.
Both sides show they want to attack. It really doesn’t make sense for them to play for a draw today. They are contesting every ball.
- 7th minute: Bresciano’s promising free kick cross flies dangerously through the Ghana box but no one from Australia tackles it.
- 8th minute: Addy unconvincingly lets Kingson scoop up the ball before galloping Kewell. Addy doesn’t look to sure of himself today.
- 11th minute: Bresciano’s free kick is dropped by Kingson. Ghana’s defenders are slow to react and Bret Holman is the first to react on the rebound and Australia leads! Jabulani?
Photo: Australia’s Brett Holman scores past Ghana’s goalkeeper Richard Kingson during a 2010 World Cup Group D soccer match at Royal Bafokeng stadium in Rustenburg June 19, 2010. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
- 13th minute: The Ghanaians are fighting back immediately but Schwarzer fists the ball away powerfully.
The Ozzies are very encouraged by their early, and probably unexpected, lead. The Ghanaians will probably have to take some time to recover from the shock.
- 23rd minute: Gyan gets a clear look at the Ozzie goal, but Neill intercepts the ball brilliantly
- 24th minute: Penalty for Ghana and a red card for Harry Kewell! It was harsh as the replay clearly shows that Kewell was on the goal line when Mensah’s shot struck him in the right shoulder.
Photo: Australia’s Harry Kewell (R) blocks a shot on goal by Ghana during a 2010 World Cup Group D soccer match at Royal Bafokeng stadium in Rustenburg June 19, 2010. Kewell was later shown the red card for a handball offence. REUTERS/Christian Charisius
- 25th minute: Gyan scores a clinical penalty
- 26th minute: Ghana’s Tagoe shoots from the left side but the ball, as fast as it was, flies past near Schwarzer’s upright.
- 27th minute: Kewell still can’t believe he is sent off.
- 29th minute: As Gyan’s header flies wildly past the goal, he complains about being pulled back by the defence.
The Australians ability to attack is severely impacted by Kewell’s red card. He was already a lone attack player in today’s squad; it will now be very difficult for them to score more goals. Things are not looking good for Australia.
- 37th minute: Asamoah’s free kick form 24 metres is very poor and hits the wall.
Ghana is controlling the ball very well. Ghana is the youngest team at the World Cup, Australia the oldest.
- 40th minute: Addy gets a yellow card after a crushing tackle from the back against Bresciano. He was rather lucky not to get a red one.
- 44th minute: Boateng’s brilliant low shot from an acute angle was phenomenally saved by Schwarzer.
Photo: Australia’s goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer makes a save against Ghana during their 2010 World Cup Group D soccer match at Royal Bafokeng stadium in Rustenburg June 19, 2010. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
- 45th minute: Another crucial intervention from Neal. He is a classy defender.
Australia will be very worried about the second half. Probably their best shot will be a tough draw.
- 47th minute: Asamoah’s long range strike is completely harmless. The lack of spectacular goals in this World Cup is quite pronounced.
- 50th minute: Gyan’s very good hard, low shot was well saved by Schwarzer. The Ghanaians definitely look more dangerous.
- 53rd minute: Boateng’s reluctance to shoot or find another player results in Tagoe’s eventual cross being easily stopped by Schwarzer.
- 55th minute: Asamoah’s strong shot was deflected, but Schwarzer is reassuring.
- 57th minute: Asamoah’s meek cross was dealt with ease by Schwarzer.
- 60th minute: Another Gyan shot, this time rather dangerously-bouncing, was confidently stopped by Schwarzer.
- 67th minute: Wiltshire’s cross was headed by Chipperfield above the goal.
- 67th minute: Asamoah shot from almost the corner line managed to beat Schwarzer but no one managed to do the easiest of taps.
- 71st minute: A great chance for Australia, as Wilkshire was stopped by brilliant Kingson.
Photo: Australia’s Luke Wilkshire (L) shoots but missed, pressured by Ghana’s Lee Addy, as goalkeeper Richard Kingson tries to block during their 2010 World Cup Group D soccer match at Royal Bafokeng stadium in Rustenburg June 19, 2010. REUTERS/Christian Charisius
- 77th minute: Asamoah is replaced Inter’s attacker Muntari, who is a great but hugely undisciplined player. It appears that Ghana’s Serbian coach wants to win this game.
- 79th minute: Emerton’s free kick goes high, doesn’t worry Kingson
Even with 10 players, Australia is not lying down and waiting to lose.
- 86th minute: It doesn’t look like either of the teams will score again.
- 87th minute: Kingson makes an important interception of a dangerous-looking cross.
As the game draws to an end, the Australians look physically in better shape than the Ghanaians.
- 88th minute: Another dangerous attack by the Aussies ends with fast, low cross being snatched from Rukavitsa’s feet by Kingson.
- 89th minute: The Ghanaians have a free kick, 30 metres from the goal on the left side. Muntari’s cross is met by powerful header from Jonathan Mensah that flies quickly past Schwarzer’s posts.
Photo: Australia’s goal keeper Mark Schwarzer (L) watches as Ghana’s Jonathan Mensah (2nd L) and Matthew Amoah (14) attack during their 2010 World Cup Group D soccer match at Royal Bafokeng stadium in Rustenburg June 19, 2010. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci
- 91st minute: Owusu-Abeyie’s rocket is stopped by high-flying Schwarzer.
- 93rd minute: Lee Addy is injured, with blood poring over his face. The end of the game is delayed for few seconds.
- 95th minute: The Rustenburg match, a third successive 1:1 draw, is over.
Report by Branko Brkic
Main photo: Australia’s Harry Kewell (C) reacts to being shown the red card by referee Roberto Rosetti of Italy during a 2010 World Cup Group D soccer match against Ghana at Royal Bafokeng stadium in Rustenburg June 19, 2010. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci
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