World Cup: Ghana vs. Australia: Socceroos earn draw despite playing a man down
Australia didn't wilt after an early ejection of one of its veterans.
The Socceroos held on for a 1-1 draw despite Ghana's man advantage for more than 66 minutes in the World Cup on Saturday at Rustenburg, South Africa, further tightening Group D.
Australia forward Brett Holman scored in the 11th minute after goalkeeper Richard Kingson bobbled a free kick from Mark Bresciano right into his path. Holman put the rebound past the keeper.
Harry Kewell led the Australian attack against Ghana as one of four changes to the team beaten by Germany. But he was given a red card in the 24th minute after he blocked a shot from Ghana defender Jonathan Mensah at the goal line with his upper arm.
"It's devastating for me," Kewell said. "There was no intent. The referee has killed my World Cup."
Kewell said he had to watch the rest of the match in the dressing room with a security guard.
Asamoah Gyan converted the penalty kick in the 25th minute for his second goal of the tournament, both from the penalty spot.
Australia Coach Pim Verbeek said Kewell shouldn't have been sent off, calling it a hard shot that he couldn't move his arm away from.
"I think it was definitely not a red card," he said. "What can you do with your arm? You can't cut it off."
Ghana nearly went ahead two minutes later when Prince Tagoe's close-range shot carried just wide, and again just before halftime. Forward Kevin-Prince Boateng made a speedy run down the right wing and fired his shot toward the far post. Goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer made a magnificent diving save.
The Black Stars top Group D with four points, followed by Serbia and Germany with three each, Australia with one. Ghan plays Germany on Wednesday.
Mensah, Ghana's captain, and fellow defender Isaac Vorsah were out because of injuries, and Coach Milovan Rajevac said that was a factor in the opening goal.
"Instead of two defenders we had to use two young players," Rajevac said. "We got off to a bad start, conceding a goal. After that, we started to fight.
"We shouldn't have given that goal away. It's very difficult to attack a team with a good defense."
Verbeek still thinks there's a chance to advance after Wednesday's match against Serbia.
"We're still in the race," he said. "The boys were fighting for everything, and with everything they had. I can only be proud of the players."
The Black Stars continually broke through Australia's defense and threatened to score, but couldn't finish. The 10-man Aussies also attacked and came close to a winner several times.
Australia got off to a fast start as it looked to rebound from a 4-0 defeat to Germany. Verbeek was heavily criticized for fielding a defensive lineup in that match and for not going with a recognized striker.
So Kewell's red card against Ghana was a difficult blow because it dulled Australia's dominance in the opening stages.
In the second half, Australia nearly scored when a cross was headed just over the net by substitute Scott Chipperfield, who has just come on. Seconds later, another Ghana attack almost resulted in a goal when a cross from the right was just missed by a sliding Gyan in front of goal.
--Associated PressPhoto: Australia's Nikita Rukavytsya tries to get the ball past Ghana goalkeeper Richard Kingston during their World Cup Group D game on Saturday at Royal Bafokeng Stadium. Credit: Paul Buck / EPA