They were tipped to drag São Tomé and Príncipe to the slaughter yesterday with a cricket scoreline, but the Black Stars could only manage a slender 1-0 win over the petite Island country on a comfortable afternoon.
Nevertheless, the victory was enough to send the Stars firmly atop of Group C of the Cameroon 2021 African Cup of Nations qualifiers – and probably warn the rest of the continent of a Ghana team in full renaissance.
The Stars made a strong start to their qualifying campaign with a convincing 2-0 win against South Africa at the Cape Coast Sports Stadium last Thursday.
The São Toméans crumbled 4-0 to Sudan in the group’s opener in Omdurman, last Wednesday and may have looked to pull a fast one on a terrible astro turf over the four-time African champions at the Estadio Nacional de 12 Julho.
But unfortunately for the home team, whose supporters almost filled the 6,500-capacity national stadium to the rafters, the Stars have ulterior motives – motive of annihilation that had to be tampered with a sub-standard pitch that held the guarded players at bay.
Rather incredibly, the Falcons and True Parrots, as the São Tomé team is nicknamed, held the Stars to a cautious stalemate in the opening half, ‘packing up the bus’ at the backline as the Ghanaians failed to break through the bulwark.
Indeed, the São Toméans never troubled the Stars throughout the game until the final 10 minutes when they decided to pour forward and look for any ‘loose’ slip in the Ghana defence. Or, maybe, they almost capitalized on a misunderstanding between goalkeeper Richard Ofori and one of his rearguards, but the Ghanaian shot-stopper recovered enough to salvage the situation.
Coach Kwesi Appiah slightly altered his squad that beat South Africa, starting Samuel Owusu for Alfred Duncan. China-based Emmanuel Boateng should have put Ghana ahead after only 10 minutes, having been set up by an unselfish Jordan Ayew who had intercepted a faulty pass from goalkeeper Gilmar Eusebio.
Instead of shooting straight into the net, Boateng delayed and fluffed off the opportunity. There was little desire and passion. The team’s general lax may have been as a result of the powder-puffed opposition from the hosts.
Ghana returned from the one-sided recess and appeared more like a team looking for the result and just seconds after, Atletico midfielder Thomas Partey got at the end of a Gideon Mensah dream cross from the left. But the man who struck the Stars’ first goal against South Africa, headed wide to the chagrin of the tiny visiting contingent.
However, moments later in the 57th minute, Jordan Ayew scored from the spot by sending goalkeeper Eusebio the wrong way after Boateng had been upended by the constantly erring goal-tender, who had spilt the ball to cost his side.
Kudus Mohammed, the young lad who fetched that fabulous goal against South Africa on his debut, was brought on for Boateng after the hour mark, whilst German-born Ghanaian Christopher Antwi-Adjei also carved his first cap in the 72nd minute, replacing Owusu.
Adjei’s maneuvres on the left were quite gorgeous. He appears to be in fine fettle.
BY JOHN VIGAH