Gyan (pen) 25
Holman 11, Kewell sent off 24
Ghana failed to take full advantage of playing against 10 men for over an hour as they were held to a draw against Australia . Brett Holman had given the Australians an early lead before Asamoah Gyan scored from the penalty spot after Harry Kewell had been sent off for handball.
Australia went in front after 11 minutes when Holman pounced on a goalkeeping error from Richard Kingson. Marco Bresciano’s 30-yard freekick bounced in front of Kingson, who spilled it, and Holman reacted quickest to smash home the loose ball. Ghana were level after 25 minutes thanks to Gyan’s penalty, awarded after Kewell handled Jonathan Mensah’s shot on the line. The ball struck Kewell high on his right arm, who was shown a straight red card, and Gyan coolly stepped up to send Mark Schwarzer the wrong way from the spot. It was Schwarzer who kept his team level just before half time when he saved from Kevin-Prince Boateng. Boateng burst into the Australian area, worked himself space and shot across Schwarzer but he got down low produce a great save, pushing the ball wide of the far post.
Luke Wilkshire hung a cross up to the back post but Scott Chipperfield headed over after 66 minutes having just come on as a substitute. Ghana were inches away from going in front a minute later when Gyan fired a ball across the face of the goal. There was just a little too much fizz on the ball and Kwadyo Asamoah could not get a touch on it at the far post. After 71 minutes, Boateng slipped Gyan through but he could not wrap his left foot around the ball and fired wide of the near post. Immediately down the other end, Luke Wilkshire should have given Australia the lead after he found himself through on goal following Lee Addy’s poor clearing header. Kingson got down to save Wilkshire’s low effort before holding Josh Kennedy’s tame volley on the rebound. In the 90th minute, Mensah had a free header at the back post from a freekick but he could not direct his effort on target.
Harry Kewell furiously protested the award of a penalty against him and the subsequent red card but there could be little argument with Roberto Rosetti’s decision. The ball undoubtedly struck Kewell on the arm and denied a clear goalscoring opportunity for the Ghanaians. There could arguably have been a penalty given in the build up to Mensah’s shot which resulted in the Kewell handball, when Gyan looked to be pulled down by Lucas Neill. Before Rosetti had time to consider blowing up for the foul, Mensah had blasted his shot and Kewell handled. Part of Kewell’s frustration will have come from a decision in the second minute by Rosetti not to award him a penalty after he tangled with Lee Addy just inside the penalty area on the right. It looked a penalty with Addy failing to win the ball but Rosetti deemed there to have been no foul.
Back on level terms, Ghana did not do enough in the remainder of the first half to take advantage of their extra man. With Australia struggling to reorganise their shape, there was an opportunity for Ghana to put real pressure on them but they failed to do so. They were too slow in possession and failed to make use of the pace in their ranks which would have caused all sorts of problems to the sluggish Australian backline. It had been the Ghanaians who had looked uneasy in defence in the opening 20 minutes, clearly missing their first choice central defensive pairing of John Mensah and Isaac Vorsah. Although replacement Addy is older than Vorsah, he has less caps and with Jonathan Mensah only 19-years-old, the new combination are a lot less experienced than the injured pair they deputised for. There was a lack of communication between the centre-backs and keeper early on, with Addy and Kingson colliding after eight minutes, causing the latter to drop the ball.
Ghana were again unable to make the most playing against 10 men in the second half and were far too wasteful in possession. Time and again they went for the Hollywood finish, shooting from 35 and 40 yards with regularity. Gyan looked dangerous with his movement both on and off the ball but there was little in the way of support for him around the penalty area. Ghana failed to push a second player up front until the last four minutes with the arrival of Matthew Amoah, and their lack of ambition made it far more comfortable for the Australians than it should have been. Pim Verbeek made some positive substitutions, bringing on Chipperfield and Kennedy, and their attacking thrust unsettled the inexperienced Ghanaian spine.
The result leaves Ghana top of Group D and a point from their last match with Germany will send them through to the Round of 16. The Australians will be without Kewell for their crunch match against Serbia but will welcome back Tim Cahill following suspension. Australia must beat Serbia to have any chance of going through but their progression will depend upon the Germany vs. Ghana result. Having Kewell and Cahill in the same team would have given Australian their best chance against the Serbians but they will be unable to field their two biggest stars in the same team for the third game in a row. Starting with Kennedy would be a sign of intent, with his abilities as a target man offering them a way to unsettle defences that they had hitherto been lacking.
Ghana – Kingson – Paintsil, Jonathan Mensah, Addy, Sarpei – Annan, Kevin-Prince Boateng (Amoah 87) – Tagoe (Owusu-Abeyie 56), Asamoah (Muntari 77), Andr