TEN-man Ghana yesterday exhibited a
tough-minded performance but failed to roast the
Squirrels of Benin as the two sides settled for a pulsating 2-2 draw in their Nations
Cup Group F tie at the Ismailia Sports Stadium.
Eye-catching goals by the Ayew brothers –
Andre and Jordan, almost condemned their west African neighbours to the abyss –
but a 54th minute sending-off of central defender John Boye left the
Ghanaian game smitten – ultimately leading to the result.
Indeed, right from the get-go, the Stars
were blown out of the water with a stunning Michael Pote second minute goal.
The 34-year-old Benin marksman fed on a through pass to beat defenders Lumor
Agbeyenu and Kasim Nuhu before poking past Richard Ofori.
None believed the scoreline at this time;
perhaps, only the Squirrels.
Goaded by the presence of Nana Addo Dankwa
Akufo-Addo, President of the land, the Stars splashed their doughty-charactered
mentality on the mast after falling behind and got down to brass tacks.
And, after only nine minutes, skipper Andre
Ayew struck parity with a sweet left-footed corker benefiting from a Jordan
pass. Three minutes from the break,
Jordan himself rifled home the lead with a swift romantic turn that left the
Benin goalkeeper petrified as the Stars romped into a deserved 2-1 lead.
However, with Thomas Partey and Mubarak
Wakasu less efficient in midfield – and Christian Atsu having a torrid moment,
the Ghanaian game suffered miserably, though the Stars ended the half stronger.
Michel Dussiyer’s men have met the Stars 14
times dating as far back as 1981 – with Ghana winning seven and losing two. However,
that stranglehold never told on the Squirrels as they staged a series of onslaughts
in the Ghanaian area – and were always quick to regroup to stage their own
fight when under pressure.
Without their talisman Stephane Sessegnon,
who was serving a three-match suspension, the Squirrels banked their hopes
onstriker Steve Mounie, Mickaël Poté, Seibou Mama, Jordan Adeoti and Cebio
Soukou to deliver the goods.
Disaster hit the Ghanaians in the 54th
minute when central defender John Boye attracted a second yellow card for
time-wasting to take an early shower. It was a stunning decision by Tunisian
Referee Youssef Essrayi that had unused striker Asamoah Gyan screaming out on
Coach Appiah was then forced to make a
tactical change by bringing on Jonathan Mensah for Samuel Owusu who had only
been introduced for injured Thomas Agyapong in the 35th minute.
With pressure mounting by the minutes, It,
perhaps, came as no surprise at all when Pote again restored parity for Benin
after side-footing from a corner-kick, Partey failing to mark him down.
Days ahead of yesterday’s nerve-jangler,
the four-time African champions had failed to score in their two preparatory
games against lowly-placed Namibia and South Africa, deepening concerns about
their readiness for a campaign they had promised to win since the heroics of
All those apprehension and world-weariness may have evaporated away yesternight with two great goals – but many would expect the Stars to improve remarkably when they take on defending champions – the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon on Saturday.
BY JOHN VIGAH
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