Coach's son saves US blushes with late strike

Slovenia 2 USA 2
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The Independent Football

Slovenia and the United States did England a favour by taking points off each other in their rousing Group C match yesterday, Bob Bradley's team climaxing the best comeback of the tournament when his son Michael equalised in the last 10 minutes. The Americans then thought they had won the game from 2-0 down, only to have a further goal harshly ruled out.

Undeservedly falling two goals behind just before half-time, they rallied splendidly after Bradley Snr made some bold changes, sending a previously confident and composed Slovenia into something approaching panic. There were nevertheless enough warnings earlier that England's final opponents in Port Elizabeth on Wednesday should not be underestimated. The gifted midfielder Valter Birsa of Auxerre scored a superb goal and alongside him Robert Koren, whose goal had beaten Algeria on Sunday, was as diligent as ever.

Coach Bradley, not normally one to complain about officials, said of the disallowed goal: "There were three fouls in the box, all [by] Slovenia. Michael [Bradley] was just trying to break loose from being held. This team has shown it keeps fighting until the end. We still have a good chance to move into the final round."

The Americans seemed to have recovered from the shock of the opening goal, which had claims to be the first genuine strike from outside the penalty area not benefiting from a goalkeeping error. Tim Howard could only stand and admire Birsa's left-footed shot as it arced perfectly past him from 25 yards.

Dangerous on the break, Slovenia were then pushed back, and three times before the interval a goal seemed imminent. Francisco Torres, offering a creative option to the midfield in place of the more prosaic Ricardo Clark, went closest, curling a free-kick that was creeping inside the near post until Samir Handanovic pushed it away for a corner. Almost immediately, however, the Slovenians broke out again and Zlatan Ljubijankic was just onside as he took Milivoje Novakovic's pass to run clear and beat Howard.

Making two half-time substitutions and pushing Clint Dempsey up the middle had the desired effect when Bojan Jokic allowed Steve Cherundolo's pass down the line to Landon Donovan, who slashed it high into the net from a narrow angle. Jozy Altidore, helped by having Dempsey's craft alongside him, became a threatening figure and was twice only just stopped by Marko Suler, once legally and once not. Following the free-kick for the second challenge, the Hull striker swivelled to shoot fiercely, but only straight at the goalkeeper.

Then with eight minutes to play Altidore nodded down Cherundolo's pass for Bradley, who had burst unmarked into the penalty area and deftly managed to keep his shot down. There seemed to be a winning goal to celebrate two minutes later as substitute Maurice Edu volleyed in another Donovan free-kick but to the Americans' dismay it was disallowed, apparently for pushing. There had been all manner of holding but the Slovenians were, if anything, more the guilty party.

Slovenia (4-4-2): S Handanovic; Brecko, Suler, Cesar, Jokic; Birsa (Dedic, 86), Koren, Radosavljevic, Kirm; Ljubijankic (Pecnik, 72; K Jomac, 89), Novakovic.

USA (4-4-2): Howard; Cherundolo, DeMerit, Onyewu (Gomez, 80), Bocanegra; Donovan, Torres (Edu, h-t), Bradley, Dempsey; Altidore, Findley (Feilhaber, h-t).

Referee K Coublibaly (Mali).

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