SUBSTITUTE John Brooks’ late header helped the United States exact World Cup revenge on Ghana in an entertaining Group G match.
The African side were looking to complete a hat-trick of World Cup wins over the Stars and Stripes, having beaten them 2-1 in both Germany and South Africa.
It had looked set to end in a draw after Clint Dempsey’s early strike was cancelled out by Andre Ayew, only for half-time replacement Brooks to head home in the 86th minute to secure Jurgen Kilnsmann’s side a 2-1 win in Natal.
A month’s worth of rain had fallen in the city in the days leading up to the Group G encounter but the match went ahead at Estadio das Dunas, which witnessed the opening goal after just 29 seconds as Seattle Sounders midfielder Dempsey showed neat footwork before slotting home.
Jozy Altidore left the field on a stretcher with a hamstring strain after wasting a great chance to double the USA’s advantage, before they then lost Matt Besler to a hamstring complaint.
Those changes looked to disrupt the Stars and Stripes, whose goal was peppered throughout a one-sided second half and it was no surprise when Asamoah Gyan and Andre Ayew linked-up for a classy leveller in the 82nd minute.
However, four minutes later Besler’s replacement Brooks was left unmarked and the defender duly headed home a Graham Zusi cross to secure victory.
It was a frenetic match which started with Dempsey netting the fifth fastest goal in the tournament’s history.
Collecting a Jermaine Jones flick, he showed excellent skill and poise to cut away from John Boye and send drive home with just 29 seconds on the clock.
The goal was a sucker punch and one which left Ghana understandably stunned, with Altidore wasting a glorious chance double the United States’ advantage with 19 minutes on the clock.
It proved to be the Sunderland striker’s last contribution, as running down the flank he pulled up holding his hamstring and had to be taken off on a stretcher.
Christian Atsu curled a strike wide and Gyan saw a fine effort saved by Howard as Ghana finally began to come into a match which was halted when Boye gave Dempsey a bloodied nose with a high boot.
Jordan Ayew spurned a great chance to level with a scuffed shot in first-half stoppage time and, when the teams emerged for the second half, Brooks replaced Besler after the defender complained of tightness in his hamstring.
It was another injury blow to a USA side now under the cosh, with Atsu wasting a fine chance before Sulley Muntari sent a fizzing strike just wide from outside the box.
Gyan powered a close-range header over as they continued to up the ante, with the former Sunderland striker soon forcing Howard into action with another header on goal, this time from 18 yards.
Atsu, Gyan, Kevin Prince-Boateng and Kwadwo Asamoah all had efforts as Akwasi Appiah’s side continued their search for a leveller, which came eight minutes from time.
After a poor second-half showing, the USA could have no complaints as Gyan superbly back heeled into the path for Andre Ayew, who took a touch and fired home brilliantly with the outside of his boot.
It looked to secure a deserved point for Ghana, only for poor defending to render it meaningless as an unmarked Brooks headed home four minutes from time.