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WORLD CUP: Late leveller keeps Portugal in World Cup

World Cup Group G USA 2-2 Portugal Nani 5, Varela 90 Jones 63, Dempsey 81 Portugal needed an injury time equaliser to break USA hearts and keep alive their World Cup hopes with a 2-2 draw in Group G.

The USA have managed just two clean sheets in their last 24 World Cup matches and it was this defensive weakness that allowed an unconvincing Portugal to claim a draw and prevent them from being eliminated from the competition at the group stage.

For the US a win would have meant progression into the next round but the ball was given away cheaply in midfield allowing Ronaldo to send over the cross for the Portuguese to restore parity.

In their last games Portugal suffered a heavy defeat against Germany but got off to the ideal start here with an early goal from Nani after the USA defence failed to cleat its lines.

But instead of building on this advantage it was their opponents who looked the more threatening with Clint Dempsey a particular threat going close twice. Fabian Johnson and Michael Bradley had shots narrowly off target as the US created all the chances.

Yet just before the break keeper Tim Howard kept his team in the game with a brilliant wonder save for the US. Nani's fierce shot deflected off the Everton stopper onto the post and from the rebound Eder reacted first only to see Howard pull of a one handed flick over the crossbar whilst off balance.

The Us thought they had levelled just after the break when Johnson, not for the first time, rampaged unchallenged down the right and crossed low into the six yard box were Bradley looked certain to score. However, with keeper Beto stranded, defender Costa deflected the ball behind for a corner.

But the USA were not to be denied and it took a wonder goal from 20 yards by Jermaine Jones to haul his team level past a static Portuguese keeper.

Portugal rallied as the US started to fall back as the minutes ticked down, but just as it seemed they might pay a price for defending in depth they took the lead the Dempsey.

Again the chance came from the right hand side. The former Fulham striker chesting his country into the lead from a Graham Zusi cross.

Portugal now had to attack and the US looked to have blunted their chances when five minutes of added time was shown. All that was required was to keep possession but Bradley lost the ball in midfield and the largely anonymous Ronaldo centred perfectly for unmarked substitute Silvestre Varela to head powerfully past Howard for the most dramatic of finishes.

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Ian Ferris
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Ian Ferris

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