Leroux to the rescue for USA

Ghana made an impressive debut appearance in the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup as they took the lead against defending champions USA and held on until midway through the second half when Sydney Leroux claimed the equaliser in a 1-1 draw in Dresden.

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It was the first time the US have not won their opening fixture in the tournament and they have work to do if they are to follow up their triumph at Chile 2008. Credit Ghana though for the spirited way they approached this difficult challenge and the skill and speed they showed throughout.

In particular Florence Dadson demonstrated strength and purpose and a willingness to take the fight to her opponents while Elizabeth Cudjoe probed and passed to great effect before injury forced her off.

After Dadson had worked an opening which foundered on a timely block by Kendall Johnson, Ghana seized the lead as Cudjoe took a short pass and let fly from outside the area, the ball swerving and swinging it’s way into the net off the left-hand post.

USA steadied their ship and began to get their quick passing game going. Several promising situations loomed only for the final ball to disappoint. When their passing did hit the spot some enterprising Ghana defending defended their lead.

They enjoyed some fortune, most notably when Edem Atovor, attempting to clear, almost turned the ball into her own goal. And when, following a mad scramble, they somehow got the ball away.

USA were on top but Ghana still carried a threat. Henninger needed two attempts to hold onto Deborah Afriye’s free-kick. Then after smart skill from substitute Elizabeth Addo Cudjoe’s attempt on goal was poor.

Leroux – the star of Chile 2008 where she picked up not only the award for leading scorer but also for best player – was foiled by Patricia Mantey. It did not look like being her day but then Ghana lost possession and the US took full advantage. Teresa Noyola spread the ball to fellow substitute Maya Hayes who made ground before squaring the ball across for Leroux who scored with ease. Hayes might have quickly added a second but headed a difficult chance over.

There were chances for both teams to win it. Henninger made two fine stops while at the other end Mantey tipped one over from Kristie Mewis.

USA will hope to get their game in order on Saturday when they play Switzerland who began with a 4-0 loss to Korea Republic. Ghana face South Korea – both games are staged in Dresden.