Africa: Benin Hold 10-Man Ghana

TEN-man Ghana yesterday exhibited a tough-minded performance but failed to roast the Squirrels of Benin as the two sides settled for a pulsating 2-2 draw in their Nations Cup Group F tie at the Ismailia Sports Stadium.

Eye-catching goals by the Ayew brothers - Andre and Jordan, almost condemned their west African neighbours to the abyss - but a 54th minute sending-off of central defender John Boye left the Ghanaian game smitten - ultimately leading to the result.

Indeed, right from the get-go, the Stars were blown out of the water with a stunning Michael Pote second minute goal. The 34-year-old Benin marksman fed on a through pass to beat defenders Lumor Agbeyenu and Kasim Nuhu before poking past Richard Ofori.

None believed the scoreline at this time; perhaps, only the Squirrels.

Goaded by the presence of Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, President of the land, the Stars splashed their doughty-charactered mentality on the mast after falling behind and got down to brass tacks.

And, after only nine minutes, skipper Andre Ayew struck parity with a sweet left-footed corker benefiting from a Jordan pass. Three minutes from the break, Jordan himself rifled home the lead with a swift romantic turn that left the Benin goalkeeper petrified as the Stars romped into a deserved 2-1 lead.

However, with Thomas Partey and Mubarak Wakasu less efficient in midfield - and Christian Atsu having a torrid moment, the Ghanaian game suffered miserably, though the Stars ended the half stronger.

Michel Dussiyer's men have met the Stars 14 times dating as far back as 1981 - with Ghana winning seven and losing two. However, that stranglehold never told on the Squirrels as they staged a series of onslaughts in the Ghanaian area - and were always quick to regroup to stage their own fight when under pressure.

Without their talisman Stephane Sessegnon, who was serving a three-match suspension, the Squirrels banked their hopes onstriker Steve Mounie, Mickaël Poté, Seibou Mama, Jordan Adeoti and Cebio Soukou to deliver the goods.

Disaster hit the Ghanaians in the 54th minute when central defender John Boye attracted a second yellow card for time-wasting to take an early shower. It was a stunning decision by Tunisian Referee Youssef Essrayi that had unused striker Asamoah Gyan screaming out on the bench.

Coach Appiah was then forced to make a tactical change by bringing on Jonathan Mensah for Samuel Owusu who had only been introduced for injured Thomas Agyapong in the 35th minute.

With pressure mounting by the minutes, It, perhaps, came as no surprise at all when Pote again restored parity for Benin after side-footing from a corner-kick, Partey failing to mark him down.

Days ahead of yesterday's nerve-jangler, the four-time African champions had failed to score in their two preparatory games against lowly-placed Namibia and South Africa, deepening concerns about their readiness for a campaign they had promised to win since the heroics of Libya '82.

All those apprehension and world-weariness may have evaporated away yesternight with two great goals - but many would expect the Stars to improve remarkably when they take on defending champions - the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon on Saturday.

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