24 January 2012

Botswana/Ghana: Pedestrian Black Stars Edge Past Competitive Newbies

Photo: Barry Aldworth/BackpagePix
Ghana's Asamoah Gyan, in white, failed to score off a penalty when Zambian goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene palmed the ball away.

Ghana continued the pedestrian start to the African Nations Cup by the pre-tournament favourites when they edged past debutants Botswana 1-0 in the Group D match in Franceville on Tuesday.

The Black Stars found it hard to break down the defence of their lowly-ranked opponents, who were making their first appearance in the Nations Cup stages but were patently not overawed, as evidenced by their competitive approach.

But Botswana's naivety showed at times, no more so than in the 25th minute when they failed to defend a routine corner and allowed Ghana's captain John Mensah to knock the ball over the line with his knee.

A flick-on by Asamoah Gyan assisted the process but the Zebras defence were ball watching and paid the price.

Botswana had an effort of their own hooked off the line by Ghana defender John Paintsil and might have also scored on the counterattack.

Mensah got sent off in the 66th minute when he knocked over Botswana striker Jerome Ramatlhakwana in a chase for the ball on the counterattack.

Ramatlhakwana had been set in the clear by a long clearance out of defence and a header over the top of the Ghana defence but Mensah caught him on the edge of the penalty area and was sent off for a professional foul. Botswana's resultant free kick hit Ghana's defensive wall.

Mensah will now miss the next game in the group against Mali in Franceville on Saturday but Isaac Vorsah returns from suspension.

The Black Stars were much stronger early on but ran out of ideas against Botswana's stubborn defence, particularly after they had taken the lead.

Gyan, one of the stars when Ghana reached the 2010 World Cup finals, looked ineffective and Dede Ayew spent much of his time sprawled on the ground, repeatedly fouled by an aggressive Botswana side.

The result will have given the Zebras belief they can still compete in this tough group, where they must still meet Guinea and then Mali. They will also have the talismanic Dipsy Selolwane back for the next game after he had to sit out Tuesday's opener because of suspension.

Ghana and fellow favourite Cote d'Ivoire have now both won their opening games 1-0, but Senegal and Morocco have suffered surprise defeats.

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