GHANA’s Black Stars completed the journey to the 2010 World Cup on a difficult note, drawing 2-2 at home with the Hawks of Mali at the Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi yesterday.
The home fans had been waiting for an outstanding final lap, but against the well-drilled Malian side, Ghana laboured for the greater part of the game.
And for once the big three — Essien, Muntari and skipper Appiah — were substituted with young players, Kwadwo Asamoah, Lee Addy and Emanuel Agyemang Badu in the second half as the Black Stars had to fight from behind, twice, to earn a point.
Mali served an early warning, playing tactically in a bid to draw the Black Stars out of defence. It was not until the first quarter mark when Asamoah Gyan found himself in space, only to drive his shot wide.
Gradually Mali began asserting themselves in the game, and when they came closer, keeper Richard Kingson had to draw on his experience to deny Keita Sidi Yaya on the 22nd minute.
It appeared Ghana were having problems on the left side of defence as the lanky Keita took out his markers and run across, with his players looking for opportunity to deliver the kill. But on the few occasions that they came close, Keita and Fane Lansana lazily rolled the ball away from the post.
The midfield action remained fierce, with Fane Lansana and Diarra Lasanna overshadowing Essien and Annan.
Ghana’s defence was caught-off guard on the 30th minute, as Mali fired the opener through Fane Lansana who profited from lousy defending to whip the ball past Kingson.
It was a shocker, but when Essien came close on the 30th minute heading just wide the stadium, came alive as the fans called for the goals.
Mali’s keeper Mahamadou Sidibe kept a clean sheet, when he denied the Ghanaian attack of Matthew Amoah and Asamoah Gyan some few chances.
There was a lot of action on restart and Asamoah Gyan missed with a close header on the 52nd minute, while Matthew Amoah grazed the bar a minute later.
Ghana’s defence of Inkoom, Paintsil, Jonathan Mensah and Eric Addo wobbled but they fought to resist falling as the Malians looked like making a mockery of Ghana.
Against the run of play, the Black stars drew level on the 65h minute as Amoah scored on a rebound off keeper Sidibe.
But when all thought Ghana were going to add to the score, the defence caved in on the 70th minute as substitute Ndiaye Tenema beat off a challenge from Paintsil to head home the second for his side.
Just a minute after Essien was substituted, Ghana drew level again. With the scoreboard reading 82 minutes, a clinical freekick went into the Mali area and Annan whipped it home with a flick header.
Asamoah Gyan added to his near misses, firing away from just 12 yards out on the 88th minute.