Ghana's chances of making it to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia has been dealt a blow after failing to pick all points against a determined Congo side, drawing 1-1 in a Group E Day Threee clash on Friday in Kumasi.
The Congolese stunned the home side with the first goal in the 17th minute through Thievy Bifouma who slotted home making the most of a blunder by debutant Joseph Attamah Larweh.
The goal by far motivated the visitors who went in for more goals with Ghana on the back foot till the 25th minute when they had their first chance of the game as Jordan Ayew with goalkeeper Mouko Barel Mosiah to beat over elaborated and the ball was eventually cleared.
That paved way for more attacks by James Kwesi Appiah's boys, but Congo managed to hold on till the end of the first half.
With urgency written all over their faces, Ghana started the second half on a high but again the defence of 'Les Diables Rouges' remained resolute. The Congolese were fearless in attack and matched their host squarely.
Ghana made its first change of the game in the 46th minute replacing Joseph Attamah Larweh with the experienced Harrison Afful.
It became a ding-dong affair for most part of the second half with misses and near misses on the part of both sides with the Ghanaians the worst culprits, as the likes of Christian Atsu and Asamoah Gyan fluffed close chances.
It didnot come as little surprise when Ghana coach Appiah replaced both captain Gyan and his deputy Andre Ayew for Kwadwo Poku and Thomas Agyepong.
Congo on the other hand made three changes in the second half. Nguessi Ondama, Bahamboula Dylan and Dore Ferebory were replaced by Ndinga, Delvin Danbou Simon and Tsoumou Hama.
However it was the Ghanaians backed by their fans who pushed more men forward and in the 85th minute Thomas Partey equalized to give the home crowd some hope of a comeback. But that how it all ended 1-1 with the Congolese the happier side.
The Black Stars of Ghana will travel to Congo on Tuesday to play in the return leg.
As it stands, Uganda top Group E with seven points, with Egypt trailing on six points. Ghana is third with two points and Congo rooted at the bottom of the table with just a point.
Migne Sebastien (Head Coach, Congo)
My players played to instructions and I felt that we should have won the game looking at the way we dominated the first half. In the second half, Ghana came back stronger and gave it their all and managed to get a goal and a point. We have seen how they play and we are going back to prepare for them on Tuesday.
I am not going to tell you what Ghana did wrong that made us get a point here, because we have another game on Tuesday. All I can say is that the Ghana team is good and rich with many experienced players. But my team showed that they were not under pressure. We know we are out of contention for the World Cu, so we are using these games to rebuild the team for the Total Africa Cup of Nations Cameroon 2019 qualifiers. Hopefully we will get our first win of the qualifiers on Tuesday against Ghana.
James Kwesi Appiah (Head Coach, Ghana)
Sometimes in football, these things happen. We are not happy with the result, but we have to move on and prepare for the return leg on Tuesday. The players played well as usual, but just one mistake and it gave the Congolese the early goal. After we knew it was always going to be tough for us because of the pressure from the fans.
However, it was a good game and I must commend my players for fighting for a point, which is better than a loss. We are still at the third position with just two points, but in football anything is possible so I wont say its over for Ghana.
We will go back to the drawing board and see what happened and try to win our next three matches.
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