GHANA’S Black Stars struck very early but never looked the protagonists against Benin yesterday as they laboured throughout the rest of the game before running away with a lone goal victory in a FIFA World Cup group game at the Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi.
The Beninois were never overawed by the huge reputation of Ghana and a magnificent display of art, industry and technique saw them overshadowing their opponents.
Having trumpeted the prediction of a shocking victory over Ghana, Benin left many at the stadium panting for the entire duration of the game and South African referee Benett Deniel’s whistle came as a big relief for the sweltering Ghanaian fans.
Ghana moved to the top of their group but surely the game signalled the difficulty ahead of the Black Stars in the qualifiers as the competition gathers momentum.
With expectation so high among the home fans, the Black Stars were greeted with wild cheers at the near-to-capacity stadium and they responded with one of the swiftest goals ever scored in Kumasi.
Just a minute into the game, Sule Muntari picked a long lass on the left and quickly floated his cross well into the area for a lurking Prince Tagoe to connect home first-time past keeper Yoam Djidenou.
What a way to start the game, and the crowd responded with rapturous cheers. But the Ghanaians never had the poise and composure to contain as the visitors took over.
Benin spread the game to the wings where Stephanie Sessigna and Boco Ronuald gave the Ghanaian defence a hell of trouble.
In the third minute, Benin nearly drew parity but danger man Boco saw his shot from eight yards missed out narrowly.
It appeared the Black Stars were finding difficulty in the middle as Appiah, Essien and Annan failed to push the ball upfront.
Looking better composed, the Squirrels pushed for the equaliser and Jonathan Quartey in the heart of the defence worked very well to keep them at bay. One of the defender’s tackles earned him the yellow card for rough play in the 15th minute.
The Ghanaian back-line had difficulties containing the swift attacking play of Benin
And anytime Razak Omotoyossi and Boco charged forward, danger stared right in the face of the Ghanaians.
With Muntari and Appiah lost in the game, the Stars were obviously in all manner of troubles. It was no wonder the two players were substituted in the second half:
Ghana brought on Kwadwo Asamoah for Matthew Amoah in the 67th minute and the inclusion of the Udinese man, brought some life into the Ghanaian play. Five minutes from coming on, Kwadwo Asamoah ran through the Benin defence but indecision in the firing range saw the opportunity going wasted.
Two more substitutions from the Black Stars — Asamoah Gyan for Stephen Amoah and Isaac Vorsah for Muntari — could not change the game for the Ghanaians and the Squirrels initiated a number of sweeping moves to threaten at goal.
But before he went out in the 85th minute Muntari produced a typical left-footed drive from 40 yards, which grazed the bar much to the relief of the visiting team.
Black Stars keeper Richard Kingson was booked in the dying minutes for delaying while Benin’s defender Anicet Adjamonsi also received the referee’s booking for rough play.