FIFA World Cup: Uruguay clutch victory from certain defeat

JOHANNESBURG - Uruguay reached the World Cup semifinals for the first time since 1970, beating Ghana 4-2 on penalties after a 1-1 draw Friday.

The Uruguayans advanced to face the Netherlands in the semifinals after Sebastian Abreu casually slotted the last penalty straight down the middle to secure the win.

Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera saved two shots for the South Americans.

Asamoah Gyan had a chance to win the match for Ghana with the final kick of extra time, but he hit the crossbar with a penalty after Luis Suarez was sent off for handling the ball on the line. Gyan, who had converted two penalties in earlier matches, bit his jersey and walked away with his back to the goal.

In regulation, Sulley Muntari gave Ghana the lead with a 35-meter (yard) left-foot strike seconds before halftime at Soccer City, but Diego Forlan equalized from a free kick in the 55th minute

Ghana, bidding to be the first African country to reach the World Cup semifinals, picked up the tempo in the dying stages of extra time and had other chances to win the match.

Kevin-Prince Boateng missed with a header in the 118th in the midst of three defenders. He sent in a cross from the left in the next minute which Muslera had to save at the near post.

Suarez was given a direct red card in the last minute of extra time for batting away Dominic Adiyiah's header with his arms after he'd already blocked Stephen Appiah's shot on the line.

After Muslera saved the ensuing penalty from Gyan, he kissed his glove and touched it to the bar, and Suarez ran into the tunnel pumping his arms and celebrating the reprieve.

Support for Ghana has continued to grow this week as the only one of six African teams in the tournament to progress past the group stage.

The 84,017-strong partisan crowd booed loudly when Forlan was successful with the first penalty of the shootout, and cheered wildly when Gyan angled his first shot into the top right corner to make it 1-1.

Ghana captain John Mensah was the first to miss, giving Uruguay a 3-2 cushion, but the Africans stayed alive when Maximiliano Pereira missed the next shot and the crowd cheered again wildly.

But when Adiyiah's next kick was saved by Muslera, Africa's exit was almost sealed.

After Abreu secured the win, Gyan was inconsolable as he left the field in tears.

-AP

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a5 at 18 Apr 2014 02:05:22 Processing Time: 275ms