A REGENERATED Ghana overcame injury and inexperience to defeat ANC (African Nations Cup) hosts Angola 1-0 in a tense match in Luanda. A 16th minute strike from Asamoah Gyan proved enough to knock out the Black Antelopes and set up up a thrilling Semi-Final match with arch rivals Nigeria.
A buoyant Angolan crowd voiced their support as the teams took to the pitch. Their deafening cheers were soon cut short though as Black Stars midfielder Kwadwo Asamoah launched a 40 yard defence-splitting pass to Gyan, who raced down the right flank before cutting inside and calmly slotting the ball past Angola ‘keeper Carlos Fernandes.
FIRST BLOOD GHANA: Asamoah Gyan hushes a boysterous Angolan crowd with a superb finish early on.
With the crowd stunned-silent, Angola reacted aggressively to restore the balance. The Black Antelopes flooded the penalty box in search of a goal, however a youthful Ghanaian defence managed to keep strikers Flávio and Manucho at bay with some last ditch tackles.
On the stroke of 30 minutes, Manucho missed a gilt-edged chance to bring Angola back into the game. The 6’2” frontman was unmarked in the box to power a Flávio cross goalwards, however his effort was directed straight at ‘keeper Richard Kingson, who palmed the ball to safety.
Five minutes later Manucho was given a chance to atone for his mistakes with a free kick in the Ghana penalty box. The shot was hit with power but sailed narrowly over the bar, to the frustration of the crowd.
BOYS BECOME MEN: Young Ghana defender Lee Addy battles with the experienced striker Flávio for control of the ball.
Ghana pressed forward and thought they had doubled their lead when Gyan placed a shot coolly into the net. The striker’s celebrations were cut short though as the linesman ruled the goal out for offside.
Despite this, Ghana fans applauded their side’s criticalness in front of goal, whilst the Angolan supporters continued to rue their sloppy striking. Manucho missed his third opportunity just before half time. Kingson’s floundering clearance was latched upon by Manucho, however with the goal gaping, he blazed a strike over to the disbelief of both coaching staff and fans.
It was the same story in the second half as Ghana’s solid defence left the Black Antelopes scrambling for chances. On 68 minutes Flávio spurned a free header in front of goal before Manucho once again sent an instinctive header sailing over the crossbar from five yards out.
The Black Stars were living dangerously and their task was made harder when Gyan limped off with a suspected hamstring strain. Matthew Amoah replaced him but had little service from a compact, nervous midfield.
Minutes from the end, Angolan midfielder Rui Marques chipped a fantastic ball into the Ghana danger zone. Captain Kali raced through but his weak shot was cleared off the line by defender Samuel Inkoom.
HERO TO ZERO: Kali has the opportunity to rescue the game for Angola in stoppage time but squanders the pivitol chance.
That proved to be the final chance of the match. With the referee’s whistle still ringing about the stadium, the Ghana players stormed the pitch in mass celebrations. A dejected Angola side staggered from the field of play wondering how they had not managed to score despite a glut of golden opportunities.
CHEERS AND TEARS: Ghana players celebrate victory as Angolan striker Manucho hangs in head in disbelief, having missed a series of goal scoring chances.