Manaus: A dramatic goal from Silvestre Varela with just 30 seconds to the end helped Portugal earn a 2-2 draw against the US in Group G and kept their hopes alive of qualifying for the FIFA World Cup last-16 at the Arena Amazonia here Sunday.
It seemed the US had sealed their passage to the knockout stage but Varela`s header in the 90+5 minutes saved the Portuguese. Nani gave Portugal the lead in the fifth minute. An unstoppable shot from Jermaine Jones in the 64th minute and Clint Dempsey, the only American player to score in three consecutive World Cups, gave his team the lead in 81st minute, chesting the ball into an empty net.
Cristiano Ronaldo still entered the line-up despite of an injured left knee. The Real Madrid cut a forlorn figure in the match, a shadow of a player who scored 31 La Liga goals last season. Ronaldo had a couple of good chances in the match but looked very constrained in his movements. He barely defended when the US had the ball putting extra pressure on his teammates.
But Ronaldo did make a key contribution, as it was his precise cross from the right that found Varela at the end of it. Portugal, as a whole, were way under par and after going ahead early, they hardly put any sort of pressure on the American defence. The US were clearly the better of the two teams and deserved to take the lead and the win but it was not to be as Ronaldo, in the end did have the final say.
Germany lead Group G with four points the same as the US but a better goal difference. Ghana are third with a point with Portugal, also on a point, are bottom of the crop. Earlier, Nani`s goal gave Portugal a 1-0 lead over the US in a close first half. Portugal coach Paulo Bento was struggling with injury problems hampering his team selection.
Defender Fabio Coentrao, Ronaldo`s teammate at Real Madrid, has been ruled out of the rest of the World Cup with a muscle strain. And striker Hugo Almeida is also absent due to a muscle injury. Pepe, another Real Madrid defender, is suspended. Ricardo Costa (Valencia) and Andre Almeida (Benfica) filled in for Coentrao and Pepe at the back. Jurgen Klinsmann made only one change from his side that beat Ghana 2-1, bringing on Graham Zusi for the injured Jozy Altidore.
Portugal had a fantastic start as Nani put them ahead only five minutes into the game. The winger capitalised on a defensive error by Geoff Cameron and fired the ball past American goalkeeper Tim Howard. Portugal looked confident after going up early, but the United States appeared to settle their nerves and controlled their share of possession.
In the 16th minute, Helder Postiga was added to Portugal`s injury list and he was replaced by Eder. The US created numerous scoring opportunities, but failed to convert. The Portuguese lost 4-0 to Germany in their opening Group G match, while the United States beat Ghana 2-1 in their opening match and could even secure a spot in the second round after Germany tied 2-2 with Ghana Saturday.