Wednesday 23 August 2017

Kewell's handiwork gives Aussies mountain to climb

Ghana 1
Australia 1

Ian Chadband in Rustenburg

ONE OF of football's enduring one-man soap operas offered another dramatic episode in Rustenburg when Harry Kewell's brief World Cup odyssey ended with an unfortunate red card and plenty of red mist.

A nation that has never truly taken its most talented soccer son to its bosom had to manage without Kewell once again before just about salvaging their World Cup hopes with 10 men, while also regaining the pride they had squandered with their quite un-Australian capitulation to Germany.

For Ghana, in the 100th World Cup finals game played by an African nation, there was nothing but frustration that they could not take advantage of Kewell's 25th-minute sending off for handball on the line nor of the subsequent penalty they converted through Asamoah Gyan to home in on a place in the last 16.

Instead, perhaps paying the penalty for being too conservative, they are left with a daunting last match against Germany at Soccer City on Wednesday, while Australia play Serbia in Nelspruit, with all four teams still in the qualification hunt.

In all likelihood, the Socceroos -- who only have one point -- will not make it out of the group, but the fact they are still in the hunt is astonishing after the drama that enveloped the most enigmatic and talented player they have produced.

"It's a shocker; we're all devastated," Kewell said. "It was a harsh refereeing decision. Was it a penalty? Maybe. Was it deliberate and did it deserve a red card? Of course not."

Australia had been leading 1-0, through an 11th-minute Brett Holman goal, which had been gifted to him on the rebound after yet another error from a goalkeeper who found the Jabulani ball as slippery as a bar of soap. Marco Bresciano's free-kick bounced up into Richard Kingson's arms and out again.

But after 23 minutes, calamity struck for the Australians, when Jonathan Mensah smashed the ball from eight yards into Kewell's upper arm and chest as he stood on the line. There was no time for him to react, but the experienced Italian referee Roberto Rosetti felt he had no alternative but to both award the penalty and give the former Liverpool star a red card.

For Kewell, it was too much. He has battled for months to get fit for one last World Cup only for this desperate conclusion and he was still complaining vigorously for several minutes, while the Ghanaians celebrated Gyan's perfectly executed penalty conversion.

Pim Verbeek, Australia's coach, thought the referee had made a mistake, too, because Kewell's handball had not been deliberate.

"He will be devastated," said the Dutchman, who had answered a nation's call to reintroduce the Galatasaray striker into the fray even though he was desperately rusty after a season in Turkey largely spent fighting injury. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Ghana -- Kingson, Paintsil, Mensah, Addy, Sarpei, Annan, Asamoah (Muntari 77), Ayew, Boateng (Amoah 87), Tagoe (Owusu-Abeyie 56), Gyan.

Australia -- Schwarzer, Wilkshire (Rukavytsya 84), Neill, Moore, Carney, Culina, Valeri, Emerton, Holman (Kennedy 68), Bresciano (Chipperfield 66), Kewell.

REF -- R Rosetti (Ita)

Irish Independent

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