Mixed fortunes for Mensah as Ghana labour to 1-0 win over Botswana
The Blackstars kicked off their CAN 2012 campaign with what was in the end a hard fought victory over CAN debutants Botswana in which they played most the second half with 10 men in Franceville. Ghana started unsurprisingly with Asamoah Gyan and Jordan Ayew up front with Sulley Muntari and Andre Ayew tasked with providing the creativity from midfield. Meanwhile for Botswana, Jerome Ramatlhakwane was leading their line but a notable absentee from their line up was influential midfielder Diphetogo “Dipsy” Selolwane who was unfortunatly for them was suspended.
For those who don’t know Ghana and Botswana are ranked as two of the most “peaceful” countries in Africa, but there was nothing peaceful about the start as a number of crunching tackles came in from Botswana. Ghana started well enough and were playing the ball around comfortably in the early stages. Full-backs, Inkoom and Painstil, were operating pretty much as wingers but still Ghana could not find a way through the well-marshalled Botswana defence.
Then came the goal! With John Mensah burying an in-swinging corner from close range. Skipper Mensah evaded his marker and Gyan helped the ball along nicely with the deftest of flicks at the near post. A well worked Ghana goal. At this point Ghana looked comfortable with the two Ghana frontmen Gyan and Jordan Ayew are linking up well. Subsequently just before half time Gyan broke into the Botswana box from the right, before firing one wide of the near post. A decent chance missed.
So to the second half and the Blackstars looked to pick up where they left off in the first half. Early on Gyan was making some great runs out wide, on the left this time. Then came the pivotal point in the match when goal scorer and captain Mensah was forced into a last ditch tackle as Ramatlhakwane is put clean through. Unfortunately it was a foul and earnt him a red card for bringing the striker down on the edge of the box. Ghana coach Goran Stevanovic reacted by substituting Sulley Muntari and bringing on defender Jonathan Mensah.
From here on in Ghana were forced to protect their lead. Botswana were surging forward regularly and the Blackstars were happy to let them have possession in less dangerous areas. Occasionally Ghana threatened on the counter attack with Anthony Annan going close after a great flick on from Gyan. However Ghana held on for a professional victory.
A lot of observers were hoping for an impressive performance from Ghana to justify their billing as one of the favourites for the cup. However at this early stage of the competition a win is a win.
What are your thoughts on Ghana’s opening match? Leave comments below
Ben JK Anim-Antwi