By Ben Fractenberg
East Village — It was a 1-1 draw, but it felt like a World Cup victory.
“That’s as awesome as it gets,” an ecstatic Rachel Stegler, 28, from Hells Kitchen, said as she watched the U.S. scrap to keep soccer giants England at bay on big screen TVs set up in the East Village’s 11th Street Bar Saturday.
The special relationship between the two nations was strained as England took an early lead — then threw it away with a slip by their blundering goalkeeper.
“USA! USA! USA!,” chanted celebrating American supporters, many draped in the Stars and Stripes.
Their opponent’s fans, gathered at the front of the bar, chanted back “England.”
The bar had filled to capacity by noon — more than two hours before the match kicked off, staff said.
Dozens of fans who arrived later were told they’d have to find somewhere else to watch the action from South Africa.
“England are supposed to win,” said Yank fan Alex Mynatt, 37. “We have absolutely nothing to lose.”
The U.S. evened the score as English goalie Robert Green flubbed what should have been an easy save on a Clint Dempsey shot, scrambling for the ball as it bounced from his hands and over his line.
“It’s the equivalent of Bill Buckner in the ’86 World Series,” said Mynatt. Buckner became infamous when he let a slow roller run under his glove and through his legs, leading to his heavily favored Red Sox losing to the New York Mets.
“We were really lucky.”
With a draw against the team considered the big boys of Group C, Team USA’s chances of moving into the next stage of the World Cup became much greater. They play Slovenia on June 17 and Algeria June 23.
Slovenia beat Algeria 1-0 on Sunday to earn three points and the early lead in Group C.