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FOOTBALL

Nine-man USA hold ten-man Italians

story.keller.jpg
Keller celebrates the final whistle as the USA hung on for a draw.

SPECIAL REPORT

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany -- Three men were sent off on a dramatic night in Kaiserslautern as the nine of the United States held the ten of Italy to a 1-1 draw that keeps their World Cup qualification hopes alive.

Alberto Gilardino's 22nd minute goal for Italy was canceled out by an own goal by Cristian Zaccardo five minutes later, but the real drama in the Group E clash centered on referee Jorge Larrionda.

The Uruguayan sent off Daniele De Rossi for elbowing, with Pablo Mastroeni and Eddie Pope of the USA joining him either side of halftime.

The three red cards equaled a World Cup finals record.

There have been three dismissals on three other occasions --. in 1938 Brazil v Czechoslovakia, 1954 Brazil v Hungary and 1998 Denmark v South Africa.

Italy top the group with four points from two games with Ghana and the Czech Republic on three points. The USA, who play Ghana in their final match, can still qualify.

"I'm disappointed and angry," said Italy coach Marcello Lippi. "We didn't go into this match in the right frame of mind and we paid for that with the nervous way we played and with the mistakes we made."

Frustrated U.S. coach Bruce Arena added: "Two red cards in the space of five minutes is pretty harsh and I respect the team for the way they dealt with it."

In truth, a draw was the least a USA performance full of brim and vigor deserved as they harried the more skilful Italians from start to finish.

Bobby Convey and Clint Dempsey had gone close before Italy took the lead as slack marking allowed Gilardino to head home Andrea Pirlo's curling free kick.

But the advantage did not last long as Zaccardo hacked an inswinging corner into his own net under no particular pressure.

With the Group E leaders clearly rattled, De Rossi departed for a blatant elbow on Brian McBride which left the Fulham striker with blood dreaming from a cut near his nose.

But on the stroke of the interval Mastroeni joined De Rossi in the dressing rooms for a late tackle on Pirlo.

The second half had barely started when United States central defender Pope was shown a second yellow card for a tackle from behind on Gilardino, suddenly leaving Italy with a man advantage.

Surprisingly it was the USA who pushed hardest for a winner with McBride shooting wide from a good position after fine work by the ever-lively Landon Donovan.

Substitute DaMarcus Beasley even had the ball in the net but it was ruled out with McBride in an offside position.

Carlos Bocanegra gave Arena's men a scare when he headed against his own crossbar and Kasey Keller palmed away Alessandro del Piero's volley, but they held out for a memorable draw.

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