Algeria weren’t keen to follow Cameroon, South Africa, and Nigeria’s deadly path. Just as much as the Americans were determined to perform on the afternoon, Les Fennecs were ready to make the most of their slim chances to reach the Last 16 of the 2010 World Cup.
Algeria proved their intentions to remain in the tournament with Djebbour coming close to perfection through a 6th minute shot that dramatically hit the crossbar. What a blow that would have been for the USA if luck had put the ball just beneath for an early Algerian goal!
Now Algeria had to work on keeping their cool with Hassan Yebda picking up a yellow card as a quarter of an hour was yet to go down the clock. USA started taking control of the game, much to the pleasure of former U.S President Bill Clinton who was following the match from his VIP box. Perhaps inspired by Clinton’s presence, the Americans converted their dominance into a goal through Clint Dempsey.
Bob Bradley’s side thought it have found the perfect platform to stand on until the remainder of the match. But once again, the goal was wrongly disallowed and the score line was left goalless – only for Americans to wonder more about a possible conspiracy against their team.
Disappointment increased for the USA with news from Port Elizabeth indicating that England had taken the lead through a Jermaine Defoe goal. However, they didn’t allow frustration to take over although they looked a bit shaky before the half time whistle was up.
Algeria threatened with Karim Ziani using the midfield area to give the USA a real battle. Unfortunately for the North Africans, the Americans were present everywhere to break their moves towards the goal post. Three minutes before the hour mark, Dempsey had a clear opportunity to score for the second time in the game but he somehow wasted his opportunity. Still 0-0, and at that point, both Algeria and the USA were out.
A minute later, another chance went begging for the Americans. Algeria should have done better to benefit from their opponents’ inability to find the lead but USA’s defensive line was strong enough to deal with Les Fennecs’ attackers. It was interesting to see how both sides struggled to keep their net safe from quite a lot of attempts on goal.
Edson Buddle almost found the breakthrough in the 68th minute through a header but Algeria’s Mbolhi was up to the task to deny the American. Immediately after, play maker Karim Ziani threw away a glorious chance for Algeria to stun the USA when he fired the ball wide from the right hand side despite being 12 yards out. This was the midfielder’s last action on the pitch as he was then taken off for Guedioura. Ghezzal, who had to serve a one-match ban following his sending off against Slovenia, was eager to make his mark.
As the game’s tempo kept increase to cut the fans’ breathe, the Algerian striker run his way through into open space before shooting from 25 yards. Tim Howard didn’t get troubled, however. Antar Yahia was enduring a bad game for Algeria and deservedly got his first booking in the match with 15 minutes to go before the end of proceedings.
The 82nd minute saw Clint Dempsey forced out following a blood injury he sustained after clashing with Algeria’s captain Antar Yahia. Perhaps this was just the type of sacrifice that the Americans needed to historically reach the Round of 16. Beasley was flashed the yellow card just as regulation time was coming to an end. Four minutes of added time had been awarded by the referee and they meant so much to the USA.
Algeria wasted yet another chance to score and Dempsey, who returned to the field of play, was giving the task of punishing Les Fennecs on the counter. His effort was punched away by the Algerian goalkeeper but the resulting corner was another story. Landon Donovan fired in a beautiful goal for the USA to clinch a late victory which saved them from the horror of crashing out in the first round. That’s what it takes to be a skipper.
Today, Landon Donovan helped his country to create a new page in the history of football. The captain is a hero, and surely now, a living legend. The Americans could have been the second big side – after France yesterday – to exit from the group stages, but that was not to be. For Algeria, this was quite a way to have broken hearts with Captain Antar Yahia seeing red inside the third minute of injury time.
Algeria are out; they couldn’t fulfill the promise they had made to all their fans and it’s now down to Ghana to lift Africa on their shoulders. The USA could meet the Black Stars in the CAN 2010 runners-up finish second in Group D.