Novelty Nations Cup - Bright Start For Ghana
Fans at the plush Tamale Stadium were kept sitting on thorns for 90 minutes of a heart-throbbing clash between the Local Black Stars of Ghana and Niger in their first leg qualifier of the novelty African Nations Championship (CHAN).
Although the Stars earned a convincing 2-0 victory in the game last sunday, that was characterised by squandering of several chances by both teams, the seeming lack-lustre performance by the Nigeriens, coupled with the inability of the attacking machinery of the Black Stars to convert their numerous chances, prevented the two teams from earning a goal harvest.
Suffice it to say that the Stars sparkled like a gem and confirmed the initial argument of football fans that the crucial game would be a walk-over for Ghana.
Indeed, the battle between the two teams on the lush green pitch of the Tamale Stadium thrilled fans, but the situation looked dicey.
The Nigeriens' relative inexperience in continental football prevented them from plugging the loopholes created by the Stars.
For one thing, fans after the match challenged the technical team to ensure that scoring abilities of the local Stars were improved.
Many sports analysts observed that the margin of victory could have been bigger, and that a smarter and a more technically-disciplined team could have used on counter-attacks to destroy the Stars.
Credit must, however, go to Fatau Dauda as the Ashantigold player kept his composure and made a number of critical saves for the Stars.
Within the first three minutes of the game, the Stars appeared jittery with a number of faulty passes, but when they settled into the game beginning with Harrison Afful's initial foray to get a goal in the fourth minute that threatened the defence of the Nigeriens, it was obvious that the visitors were in trouble.
As expected, in the 12th minute, a powerful header from John Boye found the net and gave the Stars the first goal. This supply came from Ekow Benson who effected a free-kick.
In the 18th minute, Eric Bekoe's powerful connection to Harrison Afful's pass came off the woodwork, denying Ghana the early lead.
In the 53rd minute, the Stars' resilience paid off as they managed to secure the second goal through Dominic Adiyiah.
Eric Bekoe, the Onetouch Premier League leading scorer, however, could not find the net throughout the game although he was desperate to score.
His actions attracted a yellow card in the 33rd minute when he defied the referee's whistle for an offside against him and kicked the ball.
The last time Ghana and Niger clashed on competitive basis was at the Len Clay stadium when Ashantigold FC overturned a I- goal-deficit to sink Sahel FC 6-1 in an MTN Confederation of African Football (CAF) champions league qualifier.
This two-leg encounter not only saw Ashantigold progressing, but also gave a good testimony of the quality football that one touch premiership is blessed with.
Story by Vincent Adedze