RUSTENBURG, South Africa — The record will show it was a tie, but it was hardly that.
The United States and England played to a 1-1 draw Saturday night in their World Cup opener, with the Americans rallying when Clint Dempsey scored on a blunder by goalkeeper Robert Green and U.S. goalie Tim Howard withstood a second-half barrage by Wayne Rooney and his celebrated teammates.
Steven Gerrard put England ahead in the fourth minute, blowing past Ricardo Clark to beat Howard from short range. But Dempsey tied it when Green fumbled his 25-yard shot that skipped off the ground twice.
“I’m glad it’s over, there was a lot of hype and pressure,” Howard said. “I’m glad we put in a performance we can be proud of. But we can’t make too, too much of it.”
Jozy Altidore nearly put the U.S. ahead late, but Green got a hand on his angled shot and it deflected off the corner of the goal.
Howard, who needed treatment in the first half when Emile Heskey slid into his chest, saved the Americans time and again in the second half, frustrating the famous high-priced stars he faces each week in the Premier League.
With each save late in the game, louder chants of “U-S-A!” erupted from Sam’s Army and American Outlaws, groups who made the long and expensive trip from home to sit among the vuvuzela-blowing fans on a cool night in the Southern Hemisphere.
“I think when you play at the highest level and against the best competition, it will bring the best out of you,” Howard said.
England must try to regroup as it seeks its first major title since winning the World Cup at home in 1966. The U.S., trying to rebound from first-round elimination four years ago, got a boost as it heads into first-round games against Slovenia on Friday and Algeria on June 23.
While not a shocking win to match the 1-0 American upset over England at the 1950 World Cup in Brazil, the U.S. earned a huge single point in its quest to reach the second round for the first time since 2002.
Both sides looked tentative and nervous in the opening minutes until England broke on top.
Gerrard scored his 17th goal in 82 appearances, bursting past Clark. Heskey had taken Glen Johnson’s throw-in and sent a through ball to Gerrard, who flicked it past Howard.
Dempsey scored on a play very similar to the goal by Croatia’s Niko Kranjcar that went in off Scott Carson’s arm and helped eliminate England from qualifying from the 2008 European Championship.
Dempsey took several touches, spun around Gerrard and hit a dipping left-footed shot. The ball hit the field twice, glanced off Green’s right hand and went into the net for Dempsey’s 19th goal in 63 national team games. Dempsey also scored against Ghana as the U.S. was eliminated in 2006.
“It was a difficult game,” Gerrard said. “I think the important thing in the first game is not to lose. Unfortunately we’ve let a poor goal in and we couldn’t go on and get the winner.
“The goal shocked us a bit. … It took us a while to get over it.”