World Cup: Last-gasp Varela saves Portugal from elimination

 
Frank Dalleres
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USA 2 PORTUGAL 2

PORTUGAL snatched a World Cup lifeline in dramatic fashion last night as substitute Silvestre Varela’s 95th-minute equaliser spared them from being eliminated at the group stage with a game to spare.

Former Tottenham and Fulham star Clint Dempsey looked to have earned USA all three points just nine minutes from time, after Jermaine Jones had cancelled out Nani’s early strike. But Cristiano Ronaldo produced a superb cross in the final minute of stoppage tome for Varela to head a vital leveller past Tim Howard.

The result left USA level with Germany on four points and saved Portugal from joining holders Spain and England among the big-name casualties of the group stage. They can still reach the last 16 if they beat Ghana on Thursday.

Nani put Portugal ahead on five minutes, firing high past Howard from point-blank range after Stoke defender Geoff Cameron had sliced a cross into his path.

Michael Bradley had anb effort cleared off the line before USA struck back just after the hour when Jones sidestepped Nani 25 yards out and curled an irresistible effort past Beto.

Portugal poured forward in search of a second and Nani had a penalty claim rejected, but instead it was USA who made the breakthrough, Dempsey bundling in Graham Zusi’s cross from close range. Ronaldo and Varela were not one yet, however, and scored with the last action of the game.