Ghana's Black Stars managed an unconvincing 2-0 win over the Flames of Malawi in their 2013 Orange Africa Cup of Nations final round first leg qualifier on Saturday at the Accra Sports Stadium. The hosts scored in each half through new kid on the block Christian Atsu and Anthony Annan in the encounter that saw the Flames finish with 10-men after central defender James Sangala was given the marching off orders for a second yellow card.
Despite playing at home, it was the Flames who won the heart of the Ghanaian fans with their sleek passing game, punching several holes into the midfield of the Black Stars but were never a threat in front of goal. It took only seven minutes for Ghana to break the deadlock through Atsu, who fired in from close range after captain of the day Asamoah Gyan had rounded Malawian goalie Simlex Nthala before laying to Andre Ayew.
The Flames controlled the midfield with Moses Chavula, Josephy Kamwendo and Atusaye Nyondo earning plaudits from the home fans with their fine display. On 35 minutes, Ghana goalie Adam Kwarasey who was on a virtual holiday came to the rescue of his team with a good save from Chavula's goalbound shot. Leading by a goal, the Black Stars resumed from the break stronger and got the second goal seven minutes into the second half through Annan, who let go a thunderbolt that beat Nthala.
The Ghanaians later warmed themselves into the game following the introduction of Derek Boateng for Jordan Ayew, as Boateng held on to the ball before squaring passes to Annan and Juventus new recruit Kwadwo Asamoah. Atsu, who put on a man-of-the-match performance, remained a threat to the backline of the visitors and on 67 minutes, after weaving his way past two defenders, his final delivery missed target narrowly.
In the closing stages of the game, Atsu was again unlucky as his goalbound shot bounced off the upright after substitute Solomon Asante had put him through. Minutes later, the Flames suffered a numerical blow after Sangala was sent off after a second bookable offence for a foul on Asamoah at the edge of the penalty area. Malawi enjoyed the better of possession during the latter parts of the game but could barely threaten the Ghana backline
The second leg will take place during the weekend of 12-14 October with the winner joining the other 14 teams from the qualifiers and hosts South Africa for the final tournament next year.