Slovenia 2 // USA 2
JOHANNESBURG // The last time the United States lost on African soil was in the final of the Confederations Cup last June, squandering a two-goal lead in a 3-2 defeat to Brazil. Yesterday, in a thrilling World Cup encounter against Slovenia, the Americas were a cruel and controversial refereeing decision away from doing the reverse. The US players were rightly furious with the decision by Koman Coulibaly, the referee from Mali, to disallow Maurice Edu's late goal as his side searched for three points.
Having rallied from 2-0 down to draw level, Edu pounced from a set-piece to poke home what appeared a legitimate winner, but Coulibaly deemed there had been a foul by an American. Replays showed at least two Slovenian players holding their opponents. Landon Donovan, the inspirational US midfielder, said afterwards that he was at a loss as to why the goal was disallowed. "I'm assuming there was a foul somewhere, because it wasn't offside," Donovan said. "We asked the referee several times in a non-confrontational manner about what or who the call was on, but he couldn't explain it. To be honest, I'm not sure how much English he speaks."
Slovenia had opened the scoring in the 12th minute after Valter Birsa, having been afforded far too much time to compose himself on the edge of the penalty area, perfectly placed his strike to the left of Tim Howard, leaving the Everton goalkeeper flat-footed. Moments after the defender Miso Brecko made a decisive clearance with Donovan waiting to tap into an empty net, Slovenia extended their lead, Milovoje Novakovic playing through Zlatan Ljubijankic, who timed his run superbly and slotted past Howard in the 42nd minute.
Bob Bradley introduced Edu, who plays at Glasgow Rangers, at the break and within minutes the US had pulled one back, through a vicious Donovan strike. They continued to push for the equaliser and it was Michael Bradley, the son of US coach Bob, who struck in the 82nd minute, converting after a header from Jozy Altidore. "I don't think there are many teams at this tournament who could do what we did, coming back from 2-0 down to, arguably, win the match," Donovan said. "It shows the belief that we have. It shows the spirit of the US." Coach Bradley agreed, but said he was disappointed his side left Ellis Park with a sole point. "At one point of the game, we felt it was one point gained, but at another point of the game, we felt like it was two points lost," he said. "It keeps us alive, though, and that's the important thing."