The Black Stars of Ghana revived their FIFA 2022 World Cup in Qatar chances when they thrashed the Warriors of Zimbabwe in a qualifier at the Cape Coast Sports Stadium on Saturday.
Ajax Amsterdam playmaker Kudus Mohammed and Arsenal’s midfield enforcer Thomas Partey reinforced their influenceon the team’s performance with both scoringin the 3-1 win over Zimbabwe in the qualifier.
The Group G affair, which was put beyond the visitors after captain Andre Ayew scored Ghana’s third goal with a knock-down header, still has Ghana trailing leaders South Africa after the Bafana Bafana earned a vital 3-1 win away in Addis Ababa against Ethiopia.
The win, extended South Africa’s lead to seven points, a point better than Ghana with six points and lie second with three rounds of matches to end the qualifiers.
Ethiopia and Zimbabwe follow in third and fourth places with three and one points, respectively.
Just as goals from Partey and Kudus set Ghana on course for the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualification in December 2019 against South Africa with a 2-0 win, the duo repeated the dosage and matched it with displays that established their readiness to accept the mantle as leading figures of the team.
Partey post-match remarked that he was ready to sacrifice whenever he appeared for the Stars when he was asked a question about his preferred role.
“I don’t mind defending or attacking every time I play for Ghana. I don’t mind sacrificing and playing in any position.”
An elated Rajevac described the win as an ‘excellent result’, applauding the performance of his team. He acknowledged that the Stars rode some lucky moments at certain points in the game but ultimately the hard work of the team shone through.
He disclosed that the performance and result was a confidence booster, assuring his belief in the team’s ability to make it a doubleas they face the Warriors in the reverse fixture tomorrow.
Rajevac handed a starting role to U-20 African Best Player, Fatawu Issahaku and Rennes youngster Kamaldeen Sulemana.
He also employed Leicester City’s Daniel Amartey at right-back to replace the absent regular, AndyYiadom, and also kept faith with Jordan Ayew upfront.
Desperate to make an early impression, the Stars begun on a direct note, trying to exploit vulnerable spaces with a string of passes intended to tease the vigilant Zimbabweans out of their organized defensive drill.
Fortunately, it paid off just five minutes into the game, when Kudus opened the scores for Ghana with a low strike to the far-right bottom after a sweet Ghanaian move that led to Jordan Ayew setting him up.
The goal charged the sizeable crowd at the Stadium whose deafening chants and roars incited the Black Stars to aggressively push forward in hunt of a second goal to tame the Warriors.
Opportunities came to right-winger Issahaku, Kudus and Kamaldeen, but on all occasions their strikes failed to hit the target.
The Warriors turned the heat on Ghana and had a cornerafter sustained pressure on the home sideafter recess.
The pressure paid off immediately after they were awarded a penalty, four minutes into the new half. Ghanaian defender Alexander Djiku carelessly trippedKnox Mutizwa in the box leading to the visitors’penalty, which was effectively converted by KnowledgeMusona.
The equalizer boosted the confidence of the Warriors as they nearly shot ahead in the 58th minute but Jordan Zemura watched in awe as his well-hit shot grazed the woodwork of the homeside to the relief of the home fans.
Ghanaian debutant goalie, Joojo Wollacott was also called into action to save a sticky situation from the visitors.
Admirably, the Stars kept their composure and bid their time for the right moment to strike.
That moment did arrive in the 66th minute and it was breathtaking from Partey.
The Arsenal man robbed a Warrior’s player off the ball and in a solo move bulldozed his way into the visitor’s box, found a shooting range and released a low shot that restored Ghana’s lead.
The Stars kept things tight from that stage, retained possession and made it difficult for the Warriors to hunt for the equalizer.
Rather, the Stars cushioned their win with a third goal from Dede Ayew in the 87th minute when the Stars captain rose to knock-down a header beyond the Warriors goalie Washington Arubi.
The two sides clash again tomorrow for the reverse fixture in Harare.
BY NANA BENTSI ODURO