FT: Ghana tops Group F after stuttering Afcon campaign

first_imgFrustrated by Squirrels, surviving Lion attack, Ghana tames Wild DogsKwesi Appiah flashed a loaded smile after the second and final goal. It said without words, relief and justification in all the vilifications.Ghana left it late to qualify from Group F at Afcon 2019 after using for a guinea pig, Guinea-Bissau in a 2-0 win.They endured stuttering starts against Benin’s Squirrel, spirited but goal-less performance against Indomitable Lions of Cameroun.But after Guinea-Bissau let the Wild Dogs out, the Stars came alive with early second half goal from Jordan and a confidently knitted attack to give Partey a goal for the critics.Ghana’s campaign has been like one of those fearful flights in a shaking plane. A panicked and resigned passangers throwing sticks at a calm pilot who is running out of runaway. But just some yards off, the plane lifts off – relief. The Black Stars showed intent but with no points available for intent, it was actually Guinea-Bissau that would rattle the Stars  in the 17minute. A shot full of umpth, scrabbled across the cross ball after a goal-saving shave with keeper Ofori’s fingers.Coach Kwasi Appiah can finally smileBaba Rahaman epitomised Ghana’s game plan, clever crosses and hope to find Kwabena Owusu or Jordan Ayew or the more prolific header, Dede Ayew.Rahaman showed why he remains Ghana’s best left-back with his crisis-causing crosses. Samuel Owusu, a winger played catch up in this technique. His best crossing effort found Jordan Ayew inside the box. The ball found Jordan but Jordan’s head did not find the ball as his muscled effort to connect failed. Not that anybody would bank their hopes on Jordan’s aerial abilities. Ghana banks its hopes on the Crystal Palace’s ability to dribble, hold the ball or simply finish. And he did finish it with his feet early in the second half after Ghana’s favoured way of scoring was once again replicated inside the Suez stadium. Jordan punished Guinea-Bissau for a high defensive line after Wakaso sneaked in a long pass to set off a race between a defender and an attacker.Jordan won, wound up the defender and shot into the top corner of the far post to gift Ghanaians such a relief. Guinea-Bissau will feel hard down by all sides of the goal post – the far side, near and cross bar. When goalkeeper was not tipping a shot out, the post appeared tipped to help. Not once. Thrice.And the Wild Dogs would not slump because of a Jordan Ayew goal. What Wild Dog would that be? Mendes nearly followed after Liverpool and Egypt star Mohammed Salah with a freekick that made a sail straight towards the net.Keeper rooted largely. But another root, the side bar would intervene, the ball kissing the bar and out. It was Partey’s goal that finally smothered Guinea-Bissau’s determination. Facing two banks of four opponents sitting slightly deep, Wakaso took matters into his own hands after winger Owusu hestitated from dashing through Bissau bodies. He passed across to Wakaso who directed it to Dede Ayew who had his back to the edge of the box. He turned quickly, spotted Rahaman’s run beind a defender and dropped a pass after the left-back beat the offside trap. Rahaman cut the ball back in as Partey ghosted in to connect for the second goal.That was when Kwesi Appiah smiled. Like Jesus calmed the storm, the goal will calm a choppy sea of angry supporters who say the coach is not a tactician.    Ghana’s last shot at qualification at Afcon 2019 in Egypt is underway. The Black Stars face Guinea-Bissau. Anything less than a win for the Black Stars could be F for fail in Group F.                                                             ===============================85mins: Lively Samuel Owusu comes off for Kwadwo Asamoah. The Stars are flashing smiles all over the pitch. And GNB’s determination looks smothered right now. Who can score three goals in five minutes at Afcon? Well GNB would need that right now. Their Afcon campaign has been goal-lessCaleb Ekuban is on for Partey who has made his point for inclusion after a clamour for bench time. Ekuban will now have the chance to clamour for game time. GOOOAALLLLLL!!!!!!!Partey scores!!!!!!. He gets to the end of a nice piece of supporting roles first from Wakaso, then to Dede Ayew who picks Baba Rahaman down the left after the defender beats the offside trap. He cuts the ball inside before slumping to the ground.No problem, Partey steals in to introduce the ball into the net. Ghana gets a brace. We need to spend time in talking about this goal. It represents all that Ghanaians want to see in the Black Stars. Despite  two banks of four GNB players sitting quite deep, Wakaso still initiates an attack around the wall of ‘Wild Dogs’.66mins: Kwabena Owusu is yanked off for Afriyie Acquah for his first involvement in Ghana’s Afcon campaign. It is a defensive midfielder for a striker as Kwesi Appiah tries to screen the defence from the ‘Wild Dogs’.64mins : Quick session of GNB chances. Frist a well taken freekick is palmed away by a piece of great goalkeeping as the ball sailed towards the top near post. And then a corner that needed nobody, head or leg to trigger palpitations. The ball skimmed across the cross bar after it tried to dink. 55mins: Partey finally comes to the party! Fiery shot at the edge of the box! At least this is on target. Perhaps his first shot on target for the highly-rated Ghanaian player.51mins: Mendes bullet shot at the edge of the box fires past tame defenders and a largely rooted keeper. But another root – the near post turns the shot out! The ‘Wild Dogs’ of GNB will not be tamed by Jordan goal!GOOAAALLLLL!!!!!!46mins: Jordan latches on to a through pass down the left as GNB keep a high line. The Crystal Palace striker darts and aGNB defender actually shows his the way past him, he angles his body and lets off a shoot into the top far post.Half-time43mins: Dede Ayew and later Thomas Partey try direct shots outside the box after a plethora of crosses bear little fruit. But their attempts, grass-cutting as they are, are dealt with by a well-positioned keeper. Partey’s shot spilled but recovers it at the second attempt40mins: Under no pressure except the pressure to score, Kwabena Owusu heads wide, leaving the keeper untested after Samuel Owusu worked hard inside the penalty box to cross-find him.35mins: Jordan Ayew, largely starved of service gets his and Ghana’s best chance yet. A long pass from deep off the boot of Wakaso found him with the keeper to beat and a defender saying his last prayers. God answered the defender, ball shaves the far post. Ghana so close yet so far.29mins: A proper Owusu cross finds Jordan Ayew nicely. It is Jordan’s head that can’t find the ball. Let’s himself down. But who expects Jordan to score with his head? Never been a strength.26mins: Poor Partey freekick. Bereft of energy, confidence and technique, the weak shot cum cross some yards away from the penalty box is expelled by GNB busy bodies.22mins: Joseph Aidoo picks a yellow card for late tackle on a sprinting Mendes deep inside the left. GNB is set up to counterattack after soaking in enough of the eager Black Stars players.17mins: GNB attacker Piqueti unleashes the best shot so far, canoning off the cross bar. Ferocious! Slightly elevated by the fingers of goalkeeper to hit the cross bar. It is actually GNB who has tested Ghana more despite seeing it less.16mins: Baba Rahaman cross from the left is delightful but for the lack of contact to the intended target Andre Ayew. GNB goalkeeper leaps to grab it.14mins: GNB attacker Mama Blade goes solo and opts for the ground inside the penalty box when a little show of enterprising footwork could have led to a suprise.An animated Black Stars appear fully seized of this game’s demands. But despite spending lots of time in the scoring-half of the pitch, here has been no shot on target after 12minutes. Several heavily weighted crosses that miss the intended player or simply blocked passes in the final third.last_img read more