Substitute John Brooks scored the winning goal as the United States defeated Ghana 2-1 in their 2014 FIFA World Cup Group G clash at the Estadio das Dunas in Natal on Tuesday morning.
The Stars and Stripes took an early lead through Clint Dempsey but Andre Ayew scored a late equaliser for the Black Stars before Brooks stole maximum points with less than five minutes of regulation time left on the clock.
The deadlock was broken inside the opening minute as Dempsey broke into the box on the left and skipped past John Boye before firing a low left-footed shot past Adam Kwarasey and into the far post.
The Black Stars managed to settle after conceding that early goal and spent more time in the opposite half but were let down by inaccurate crosses which went straight to the United States goalkeeper Tim Howard.
It was Jurgen Klinsmann’s side who almost doubled their lead in the 19th minute as Ghana failed to clear their lines, allowing Jozy Altidore to get a shot away from the left side of the box, but John Boye made a crucial block before Kwarasey gathered the ball.
The United States were dealt a blow four minutes later as Altidore was forced off the field, making way for Aaron Johannsson after going down with what looked like a left hamstring injury.
Kwesi Appiah’s side fired their first shot on target in the 29th minute as Asamoah Gyan collected a throw-in on the left and turned inside before unleashing a powerful strike from outside the box which was parried away by a diving Howard.
Ten minutes later, Gyan made a run to the near post to meet an inswinging cross from Christian Atsu, but he failed to keep his header down and USA escaped unharmed.
Atsu continued to cause problems for the Stars and Stripes and in the fourth minute of added time he found Jordan Ayew inside the box, but the latter mistimed his shot and Howard was able to make an easy save.
The Black Stars started the second half strongly and came close to drawing level in the 55th minute when Sulley Muntari fired a long range effort which swerved just wide of the post with Howard very far from the action.
Then it was Gyan who twice came close to finding the equalizing goal for the West Africans, heading over the crossbar from Muntari’s cross in the 56th minute, before forcing a fingertip save from Howard three minutes later.
Then it was end-to-end stuff with Jermain Jones forcing a decent save from Kwarasey in the 63rd minute, while Gyan saw his goalbound strike deflected wide by the outstretched leg of Geoff Cameron a minute later.
The United States almost capitalised from a rare attack in the 79th minute as Fabian Johnson went on a solo run from the right before finding Dempsey on the edge of the box, but his shot is saved by Kwarasey.
Ghana’s pressure eventually paid off in the 82nd minute as Andre Ayew collected a clever backheeled pass from Gyan on the left side of the box before firing past Howard with the outside of his left boot.
The Black Stars’ celebrations lasted for just four minutes as the Stars and Stripes regained their lead when Brooks was left unmarked in the centre of the box to head home from Graham Zusi’s corner.
Ghana tried to push forward for the equaliser in the closing stages of the game but the United States stood firmly to secure maximum points, which puts them in second place but level on three points with current leaders Germany.
The defeat leaves the Black Stars in third place with zero points, with two tough games against Portugal and Germany to follow.
Nigeria drop two points
African champions Nigeria drew 0-0 with Iran in their opening Group F match at the 2014 World Cup on Monday night in Curitiba.
This means that both teams are yet to win a match at the World Cup since 1998, when Nigeria pipped Bulgaria 1-0 and Iran stopped USA 2-1.
It was the 13th match of Brazil 2014 and it was also the first draw and the first match that did not produce any goals.
The biggest chances of this encounter fell for both teams in the first half.
Iran goalkeeper Haghighi kept out a hurriedly taken free kick by Ahmed Musa after 31 minutes.
And in the 35th minute, Vincent Enyeama pulled off a sensational save when he dived full length to stop a goal-bound header by Charlton Athletic striker Reza.
Nigeria bossed this match, enjoying more of the ball, but they just could not find their way past the packed Iranian defence.
Super Eagles started on a bright note, going straight into the attack in the third minute, when Victor Moses had his shot saved.
Ahmed Musa put the goal into the net in the seventh minute, but the effort was disallowed due to Mikel’s foul on Haghighi.
Musa was stopped from hitting target in the ninth minute off Emenike’s cross.
Eagles were dominant in the early minute of the game, but the Iranians settled in and gradually took the game to their opponents.
Ogenyi Onazi fired wide in 19th minute from inside the 18 yards.
It was a ding dong affair as both teams tried to break away, Nigeria best chance in the second half fell on Shola Ameobi who failed to hit off Juwon Oshaniwa’s cross in the 70th minute.
Four minutes later, Onazi fired a weak shot from 22yards which was well gathered by Haghighi in goal for Iran.
In the 77th minute, Dejagah failed to hit target with a header. He tormented the Eagles so much for the 78 minutes he was on the pitch.
Iran defended massively to deny Emenike clear cut at goal.
Ameobi was denied contact with Musa cross in the 89th minute by an Iran defender.
Ameobi headed the resulting corner towards goal only for it to be cleared off the line.