The Norman Transcript

Sports

June 23, 2014

Split decision: U.S. succumbs to last-second equalizer in World Cup

MANAUS, Brazil — With Cristiano Ronaldo on the field, a one-goal lead is never safe.

The world player of the year rarely sparkled on a hot and humid night in the jungle, but his inch-perfect stoppage-time cross set up Varela for the equalizing goal Sunday in Portugal’s 2-2 draw against the United States at the World Cup.

The Real Madrid winger, who has been playing despite a left knee injury, showed flashes of his best, but his impact was minimal until the final seconds of the match. He curled the ball in to a diving Varela, who headed past Tim Howard to give the Portuguese team a slim hope of advancing to the second round and deny the Americans instant advancement.

“He made a great cross,” said Howard, Ronaldo’s former teammate from their days at Manchester United. “Football’s cruel sometimes.”

The United States now has four points in Group G, the same as Germany. Both Portugal and Ghana have one point. The Americans will face Germany on Thursday in Recife, while Portugal takes on Ghana at the same time in Brasilia.

“Obviously we’re disappointed, but at the end of the day you’ve got to look at the positives, we got a point,” said United States captain Clint Dempsey, who scored to give the Americans a 2-1 lead in the 81st. “It’s going down to the last game and hopefully we get the job done.”

Nani scored first for Portugal, shooting past a sprawling Howard in the fifth minute. But the Americans responded in the second half as Portugal seemed to wilt in the stifling heat.

Jermaine Jones made it 1-1 with a curling shot in the 64th after a cross from Graham Zusi made its way through the Portugal defense. And Dempsey, playing with a broken nose, then put the Americans ahead, using his stomach to direct the ball into the net from a cross by Zusi.

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