Ghana/Uganda: Black Stars Huff and Puff to Ugly Win Over Cranes

Andre Ayew of Ghana, left, battles for the ball with Luwaga Kizoto of Uganda during the Africa Cup of Nations finals in Gabon. Ayew sealed the match with a first-half penalty.
18 January 2017

A win is a win however it comes and in the opening game of a major tournament any coach would take the points over performance, but there is much for Ghana coach Avram Grant to ponder after his side’s ugly 1-0 success over Uganda at the African Nations Cup finals on Tuesday night.

The Group C game was played on a poor pitch in Port Gentil and settled by a first half penalty from Andre Ayew following a moment of madness by Uganda centre back Isaac Isinde, who took his eye off the ball as he received a pass in his own penalty area and lost possession to Asamoah Gyan, whom he then tugged back to concede the spot-kick.

The Black Stars huffed and puffed after that, but were also given a number of scares by the East Africans, who were, perhaps, in the end a touch unlucky not to rescue a point.

"I'm happy with the three points. We could have played better but winning is the most thing important in tournaments like this,” Grant said. “We had to take on the pressure in the second half but at the end of the day I am happy.

“Uganda is a very tough team and playing against them is never easy. We got a few chances but we won. The second game [against Mali on Saturday] will be different, but there are no easy games in this tournament."

Ghana are sweating over an injury to defender Baba Rahman, while Grant says they will also assess the fitness of other players after a draining fixture.

“We shall wait and see Baba Rahman's injury. In the second half, we were a bit fatigued and the players wanted to keep the three points, and we played in a clever way to win the game.”

Uganda coach Milutin Sredojevic says his side froze in the first half, overawed by the occasion, but loosened up as the game went on.

"In 39 years we have not been there and in the first half we had an element of stage fright," the Serbian coach said. "We paid dearly for the mistake that is hard to explain. The experience of a great player allowed him to intercept and win the penalty that Ayew converted.

"At half-time we were fully aware that we are on the big stage. It needed man management and awakening of every player, injecting belief that we can play.

"We risked everything at the end but unfortunately it didn't come our way.

"I believe our team has seen that our level of fitness acquired in preparation is enough for this competition but there are other aspects we need to correct.

"No matter that the giants Egypt and Mali are in front of us, we still believe and we will give 200 percent in order to go further.”

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