The home based national football team, the Black Galaxies yesterday defeated the Local Squirrels of Benin 3-0 in a first leg 2023 African Nations Championship (CHAN)qualifier at the Cape Coast Sports Stadium.
Hearts of Oak trio, Daniel AfriyieBarnieh, Mohammed Alhassan and skipper GladsonAwakoscored to give the team an edge ahead of the second leg encounter in Benin.
The Ghanaians showed hunger from the start, pushing the visitors into their half of the field.
The first real opportunity for goal fell to Tema Youth winger Evans OseiWusu but his effort missed the target by inches.
Striker AfriyieBarnieh was put through on the 14th minute by Jonah Attuquaye but Barnieh’s near 25-yard strike was palmed over the bar by goalkeeper in post for Benin, Serge Obassa.
Six minutes later,Barnieh’s header from an Augustine Randolph cross went wide off target as the Galaxies probed for the opener.
Barnieh found the back of the net from the spot after a Benin defender,Olympe Gantin blocked a cross from Osei-Wusu in the box with the arm.
That lifted the morale of the Ghanaiansas they pushed more men forward, having in mind a tough second leg encounter as they aim to return to the continental showpiece.
And exactly 10 minutes after the opener, Suraj Seidu went close to increasing the tally but his strike to a pass fromAwakomissed narrowly.
Ghana had a chance again to double the tallya minute later but Attuquaye excellent finish from an Osei-Wusu cross was controversially called out for offside.
The Beninois staged an onslaught of their own that saw RomaricAmoussou and GhislainAhoudougoing closer to the visitors’ area with attempts at goal but goalkeeper Danlad Ibrahim in post for the Ghanaians dealt with those situations in the 37th and 42nd minutes, respectively.
Four minutes after the break, MohammedAlhassanconnected home from inside the box after profiting from a poor clearance of a corner kick taken by Ibrahim Imoro for the second goal.
Coach MoussaLatoundjiresponded by bringing on SoumailaHoukpe, StephaneKossi Romeo and AbokiWaris but the trio of KasimRazak, KonaduYiadom and Alhassan held them in check.
Skipper Awakoset the stadium alight with a beautifully curled ball that flew into the net, beating the ‘flying’ goalkeeper Obassa in post for a welcome third goal.
Barniehhad the chance to score a brace with a final effort, similar to that of Awako but he shot off target.
Both sides will square off in the return leg this weekend at the Stade de l’Amitie in Cotonou with the winner via the two legs facing Nigeria in the final round of qualifiers.
BY RAYMOND ACKUMEY