Ghana’s U-23 soccer team, the Black Meteors quest to qualify for the maiden African U-23 championship suffered a huge setback when they laboured to a 1-1 draw with their counterparts from Algeria at the Accra Sports Stadium, yesterday.
It was the Algerians who drew first blood in the 31st minute through Zakaria Benchaa but Dauda Mohammed’s late penalty handed the Ghanaians a lifeline heading into the return leg in Algiers in a week’s time.
Right from the start, Coach Ibrahim Tanko’s men looked off-colour with their slow build-ups and wayward passing.
The visitors capitalized on the Ghanaian’s lack of cohesion to make dangerous inroads into their opponent’s goal-area with dangerman Farrid Mollard a tough customer for the Ghanaian defence.
Their persistence nearly paid off as early as the sixth minute when striker Zacharia Benchaa was put through after a beautiful attacking play from his side but his weak shot was parried to safety by the Ghanaian goaltender, Kwame Baah.
After a series of productive play, they finally had a breakthrough when Ardem Zorgane silenced the home crowd with a cool finish after a brilliant counter-attacking move from his side.
Desperate to restore parity, Majeed Ashimeru, Captain Yaw Yeboah and speedster Bernard Terkpetey combined to rally for a quick comeback.
This nearly paid off when Ghana was awarded a penalty three minutes on after the referee adjudged an Algerian defender to have fouled striker Dauda Mohammed.
Captain Yaw Yeboah stepped up and blasted the ball wide.
This was quickly followed by Ashimeru’s low drive in the 44th minute that ricocheted off the Algerian goalkeeper Zakaria Bouhalfaya’s post much to their relief.
Eager to get his side back into the game, Coach Tanko Ibrahim effected two changes after recess bringing on Isaac Twum and Joe Fameyeh for Joseph Paintsil and Bernard Terkpetey.
The new entrants breathed life into the Ghanaian game as they controlled and made several incursions into the Algerian end of the field.
Eventually, Ghana grabbed the equaliser when Dauda Mohammed scored from the spot after Yaw Yeboah was hacked down in the Algerian penalty box.
BY NANA BENTSI ODURO