Ouagadougou, June 6, GNA - The senior national team, Black Stars, took an early tumble in their opening Africa zone 2006 World Cup qualifier when they lost by a lone goal to neighbours Burkina Faso in their group Two clash on Saturday evening in Ouagadougou.
And even though the Stars played one of their best games in recent times dominating most of the exchanges especially in the first half, they were sunk in the 80th minute of the crunch duel by a Mamadou Zongo header.
The Burkinabe determined to revenge the painful 2-1 defeat by the Stars during the 2002 African Cup of Nations in Mali, adopted a physical approach to the game, which worked perfectly in their favour.
Ironically, it was the Stars who started the game in a whirlwind fashion and unsettled the home team in the early stages as Skipper Stephen Appiah, Derrick Boateng and Sully Muntari combined effectively to create panic in the goal area of the Stallions.
The Stallions, who were finding the fast Ghanaian midfield too slippery to deal with, resorted to some hard tackles resulting in three Ghanaians - Antony Obodai, Sully Muntari and Lawrence Adjei visiting the turf in quick succession and had to be taken off for treatment.
The technical handlers of the Stars were given an early scare when Appiah went down heavily after a stamp on his knee by Kanbou Bebe, which Nigerian referee Chukwujekwu Chukwadi flashing the yellow card at the Burkinabe in the seventh minute.
Ghana came close to scoring in the 14th minute when Appiah latched unto a loose ball just outside the penalty area and delivered a shot, which agonisingly took a ricochet off the upright to the relief of the teeming home fans at the packed August 4th stadium.
The Burkinabes warmed themselves into the game and resorted to long ball aimed at lone striker upfront Dagano Noumouni who tormented the Ghanaian back line throughout the game.
Even though the central defensive pair of John Mensah and Samuel Osei Kuffour initially appeared to be dealing with the strong aerial threat of Dagano, the striker managed to outwit them on some occasion and created fear in the Ghanaian goal area especially in the 43rd and 45th minutes.
The second half saw a much more transformed Burkina team aided by substitute "Darling Boy" Zongo in the 50th minute to rapture's roar and also in part by the tiring Ghanaian players who appeared to be of no match for their physically stronger counterparts.
The Ghanaians then started living dangerously as the Stallions took control of the midfield and Dagano became a source of worry for the Ghanaian defence.
The Stallions first sniff at goal came when Barro Tanguy who was breaking through dangerously was brought down just outside the "box" by Amankwah Mireku for free kick which Toure Anadou just curled wide of the post.
In an attempt to recapture their first half dominance the Ghanaians made two quick substitutions bringing on Emmanuel Duah and Ablade Morgan for Sully Muntari and Derek Boateng in the 62nd and 63rd minutes respectively.
But this move, did not stern the Burkinabe tide which was also aided by some bizarre officiating by the Nigerian referee flagging all dangerous attempts of the Ghanaians as offside.
A clear case was in the 70th minute when Morgan who was running into position to collect a pass was pulled down but the referee surprisingly showed Morgan the yellow card.
The Stars coach Mariano Barreto brought on Nana Arhin Duah for Lawrence Adjei in the 75th minute. But Arhin Duah was unlucky when he pulled a tight muscle moment later and had to be treated for several minute resulting in him limping throughout the rest of the game.
Arhin Duah's ineffectiveness as a result of the injury affected the Ghanaians numerically as the Stallions capitalised on it to score the only goal of the match in the 80th minute when Zongo rose to head a well floated cross to the blind side of hesitant goalkeeper Richard Kinston.
The goal provided the tonic for more by the Burkinabe, but Kuffour who played like a warrior throughout the game fiercely resisted it. But the Bayern Munich defender was callously pushed down on the hard tartan tracks by a Burkinabe striker resulting in him dislocating his shoulder in the 85th minute.
But like a true warrior Kuffour refused to sit down and with obvious pains had his arm bandaged to his body and continued play till the end of the game.
Line Up (Ghana): Richard Kinston, Amankwa Mireku, Addoqauye Pappoe, John Mensah, Samuel Osei Kuffour, Anthony Obodai, Michael Essien, Lawrence Adjei/Nana Arhin Duah, Derek Boateng/Ablade Morgan, Stephen Appiah, Sulley Muntari/Emmanuel Duah
Burkina Faso: Kabore Mohammed, Coulibaly Anadou, Ouattara Abdranane, Ouattara Noussa, Kanbou Bebe, Rouanbe Florent, Ouedraogo Alassane, Dagano Noumouni, Barro Tanguy, Toure Anandou/Mamadou Zongo. 06 June 04