The Black Stars of Ghana won 3-1 against the odds versus the Nile Crocodiles of Sudan on Friday evening. The match, a fixture of Match Day 4 of Group D of CAF’s second round of World Cup Qualifying, saw the Black Stars win despite playing with ten men for most of the game.
The Black Stars took the lead via skipper Asamoah Gyan, who equaled Abedi Pele’s reported record of 33 International goals for the national team. It was also his third consecutive goal against Sudan.
The Sudanese immediately took control of the game, taking the game to the Ghanaians. Knowing a surprise win would bring them within two points of Ghana, they piled on the pressure, taking advantage of their vociferous home fans.
It did not take long for them to find what their dominance craved – they got themselves a penalty. Left back Richard Kissi Boateng was the unfortunate player that committed a foul in the box, and he even got unluckier – he was red-carded. Though the penalty – and red card – seemed harsh, the Sudanese could care less.
Mudathir Al Tahir, the man who won the penalty, finished off what he started, converting the penalty. 1-1.
It was all Sudan from then till half time, with their pressure as well as the red card forcing Ghana boss Kwesi Appiah into a first half change. He pulled out Mubarak Wakaso to bring on Samuel Inkoom. Inkoom jogged on for his milestone 40th cap for Ghana.
Ghana came in strong in the first few minutes of the second half, trying to draw inspiration from their predicament. Their determination paid off 18 minutes into the second half, as skipper Asamoah Gyan literally rose to the occasion – heading in a cross from Harrison Afful.
The goal meant he had finally broken legend Abedi Pele’s reported record of 33 goals. The goal, number 34 for him and number 35 for Ghana under Kwesi Appiah, settled nerves among the Ghana players and re-instilled the confidence they had garnered leading up to their opener.
Kwesi Appiah remained cautious with his game-plan, pulling out Gyan’s strike partner Richmond Boakye Yiadom soon after the goal. As the Sudanese took total control of the game, his reaction was to solidify his defence mechanism and create an avenue to kill the game off via counter attacking. Ghana’s 9 outfield men soaked the massive pressure that came their way.
The Black Stars knew at this point that it was all about finishing the game with their lead intact despite being outplayed. The Stars, who won 2-0 the last time both teams met on Sudanese soil in 2011, used every strength available to them to shut the Sudanese’ creativity in the final third.
Coach Kwesi Appiah brought on defender Rashid Sumaila, caring less about the fact that it would be the young defenders first ever cap for Ghana. The urgent need was to get more defensive legs in the game to protect the three points. Little did he know he would get more.
A corner to Ghana saw Sulley Muntari strike it sweetly. The ball was spilled by the Sudanese keeper, eventually ending in the back of the net. 3-1. Ghana were actually going to get three points out of a game in which everything seemed to be going wrong. It was Muntari’s 19th goal for Ghana in 77 caps.
Ghana bravely held on till the end. They will now go top of Group D, 2 points ahead of Zambia ahead of their fixture against Lesotho tomorrow. And with Lesotho stealing two points off the 2012 Afcon champions last time they met, Ghana will hope Zambia misses out on the maximum points once more.
That would hand a huge advantage to Ghana’s much cherished World Cup aspirations.Follow @@fiifanaman