Ghana Black Stars opened their accounts in the Cameroon 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers after upstaging South Africa 2-0 before an all-chanting mammoth crowd at the Cape Coast Sports Stadium yesterday.
An electrifying second half performance of grit, valour, determination and finesse from the Stars cascaded into glorious goals, leaving South Africa with their tails between their legs.
But for over half an hour, the Ghanaians were made to sit on tenterhooks as the Bafana Bafana showed enough poise and passion going forward with dangerman Percy Tau dazzling his way on the right flanks and cropping up at unexpected places occasionally.
As the situation continues to look dicey by the minutes, with the Stars committing unforced errors, combative Atletico Madrid midfielder, Thomas Partey, set the stadium ablaze as he crushed home the all-important opening goal in the 35th minute.
Chasing the game deep in midfield, he caught the eyes of the imposing Crystal Palace striker Jordan Ayew, who teed him up to finish with a teasing low grounder that whisked past goalkeeper Ronwen Williams. Reaction from the crowd was ear-splitting!
Substitute Mohammed Kudus doubled the deficit 11 minutes from time with a goal of sublime quality. The FC Nordjland striker picked up a pass, caressed the ball tantalizingly with the left – kissed it to the right and let go a thunderbolt that exploded into the net, leaving the hapless goalkeeper with a late despairing dive. The stadium roared to celebrate the breathtaking effort from the 19-year-old, the din a notch higher than the opener.
The two goals were sumptuous and the crowd celebrated them wildly. That may have been the performance they had looked for on the cold night.
Truth is that, the Stars worked with ruthless intensity. They were determined for victory to keep pace with one of their group opponents – Sudan, who had thumped Sao Tome 4-0 at home on Wednesday to zoom to the apex.
Roared on by a raucuous crowd including the famous Casely Hayford supporters group from the Cape Coast University, the Andre Ayew-led Stars knew they could not let them down.
South Africa, whose last visit to the country was a 3-0 loss to Ghana in a 2004 World Cup qualifier in Kumasi, appeared to have dominated the 25 minutes of the full-blooded, high-paced entertaining game, and would rue not making most of their possession.
The visitors nearly drew first blood in the 15th minute after Kasim Nuhu made a mess of Tau’s freekick only for Bradley Grobler to blast off at close range on a night they might term as woe-be-gone.
The manner in which Coach Kwesi Appiah, the players and the Cape Coast fans celebrated the victory said everything about its magnitude; if self-belief was not surging through them before, then it surely is now, as the team would now turn attention to Sao Tome away on Monday.
BY JOHN VIGAH