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Three sent off as brave USA hold Italy

Gilardino gave Azzurris a lead, but own goal by Zaccardo brought USA to level. Schedule | Teams | Results | Photos | Games

india Updated: Jun 18, 2006 03:32 IST

Italy were held to a 1-1 draw by the USA in a bad-tempered World Cup clash in Kaiserslautern on Saturday in which three players were sent off.

The result means that all four teams in Group E, which also includes Ghana and the Czech Republic, still have a chance of making the last 16.

Alberto Gilardino gave Italy the lead with a diving header, but an own goal by Cristian Zaccardo brought the USA back on level terms.

US striker Eddie Johnson had caused a rumpus earlier in the week by comparing the World Cup to war.

It wasn't warfare, but this gripping contest was far from friendly.

Three-time world champions Italy had Daniele De Rossi sent off in the 28th minute for elbowing Brian McBride and the USA's Pablo Mastroeni shortly followed him down the tunnel for clattering into Andrea Pirlo.

The Americans were then reduced to nine men a minute after half time when Eddie Pope picked up his second yellow card. It was only the fourth time in the history of the World Cup that three players had been sent off in the same match.

Kasey Keller pulled off two excellent saves to deny Italy substitute Alessandro Del Piero in the closing stages as the USA bravely dug in to snatch a point.

The result leaves the group wide open going into the final first round match with Italy on four points, followed by the Czech Republic and Ghana both on three and the USA on one.

Italy next face the Czech Republic in Hamburg on next Thursday, while the USA take on Ghana in Nuremberg the same day.

The Americans, quarter-finalists four years ago, made life difficult for the Italians in the first quarter of an hour, snapping into tackles and creating two half chances which Bobby Convey and Dempsey wasted.

Italy absorbed the pressure and took the lead in the 22nd minute after Pope's foul on Luca Toni wide on the right.

Pirlo delivered a low centre into the box and Gilardino stooped to steer the ball past a helpless Keller with his forehead.

Italy's joy lasted just five minutes with a defensive howler gifting the USA an equaliser.

Zaccardo swung a boot out wildly to try and clear Convey's crossed free kick and succeeded only in diverting the ball past his own keeper, Gianluigi Buffon.

Worse was to follow seconds later as De Rossi was rightly sent off for elbowing McBride in the face.

McBride's face was dripping with blood as De Rossi headed down the tunnel with his head hung low.

Despite their numerical disadvantage, Italy almost restored their lead but Toni shot wide after sprinting clear of the USA defence.

Mastroeni then joined De Rossi for an early bath following a late lunge on Pirlo.

Pope lasted just 60 seconds of the second-half before the USA's Carlos Bocanegra headed against his own bar.

McBride should have hit the target after being put clear by Landon Donovan and Gianluca Zambrotta drove wide for Italy as play swung from end to end.

Del Piero's introduction lifted Italy, but Keller superbly stopped the two chances that fell his way.