TWO second half strikes from substitute Kwabena Owusu was all that the national Olympic team, Black Meteors, needed to beat the Eagles of Mali and seal qualification to the next round of the ongoing Africa U-23 Cup of Nations at the Al Salam Stadium in Egypt.
The striker, who was left on the bench for Robin Polley to start, came of at half time to poke home twice in the 74th and 86th minutes of the game, earning him a man-of-the-match award.
The Ghanaians whose qualification hanged on an Egyptian win over the Lions of Cameroon, had their wishes granted as The Pharaohs won 2-1, handing the destiny of the Ghanaians back into their own hands, which they took care off in style.
With the recent domination by Mali over Ghana at age competitions, many Ghanaians were left skeptical of the team grinding the results and qualifying.
Ghana started on a spirited note, however, they fizzled out after the opening exchanges, handing over a lion’s share of the play to the opposition and had to thank goalkeeper Kwame Baah for a series of sublime saves to keep the scores at 0-0 within the first quarter of the game.
The Ghanaians’ hardly threatened the goal area of the Eagles, leaving goalkeeper Samuel Diarra in post on a virtual holiday while his opposite number Baah stood between his side and a goal.
Midfielder Aly Malle tested the resolve of Baah in the 12th minute with a rebound shot from behind the box after Ibrahima Kone had struck the upright; Kone took another turn at goal eight minutes later as the Ghanaian goal area kept boiling with incessant pressure.
Back from recess, coach Ibrahim Tanko brought on Owusu for Polley and his presence brought some stability upfront for the Ghanaians as the Malian tracked back with his presence in the box.
The fox-in-the-box striker registered his first goal of the tournament, rising above the defence of the Eagles to head home the opener from a Kingsley Fobi cross against the run of play.
Determined not to exit the tournament without a point, the Malians pushed for the equaliser. However, they were shortchanged with six minutes remaining on the clock when Owusu profited from a lackluster defending from skipper Youssouf Traore as he picked an Emmanuel Lomotey flick pass ahead of him before slipping it pass Diarra for the second goal.
The Meteors held on to pick second spot ahead of the Lions of Cameroon who also finished on four points same as the Ghanaians but with an inferior goal difference of minus one.
Ghana will take on the winner of Group B whose games would be played today.
BY RAYMOND ACKUMEY