Gambia'05: Ghana cruises to finals
Finals: Ghana vs Gambia ...Starlets qualify for World Cup Banjul, Gambia, May 18, GNA - The Black Starlets of Ghana, on Tuesday cruised to the finals of the ongoing Africa Under-17 Tournament in The Gambia with a 2-0 victory over their western neighbours, Ivory Coast in a nerve breaking semi final game at the Independence Stadium. It was a double ticket for the Starlets, who will also be one of Africa's representative at the World Under-17 Championship scheduled for Peru in September this year, after being absent for some time now. However, the Ghanaians had to wait till the second half of extra time before recording the two goals after regulation time had ended in a deadlock. With both sides adopting a close and compact approach to their game, it became difficult for any of the sides to create a clear chance, especially in the first half, hence, most of the actions were concentrated in the midfield with no clear dominance till the end of the half. Though the second half was quite opened for both sides, none of them seemed ready to take total control of the game in search of the opener, despite the introduction of fresh limbs by both teams. The Ivorians sent Ngossan Antoine Jean-Ettiene for Vamarra Diarra, whilst Abubakari Awudu took over from Charles Boateng.
But in what could have been described as the best chance on the day, David Telfer of Ghana, shot wide after he bumped into a cross in the "16" yard box in the 51st minute, whilst Awudu's shot in the 72nd minute kissed the cross bar with no one to connect the rebound.
The Ivorians took up the challenge and subjected Ghana to an intense pressure as Fofana's free kick created a melee in the vital area of Ghana, but Koffi Koussi's attempt to slot in the ball, was thwarted by Danso, who cleared it to safety. Calamity however, befell the Ghanaians in the 81st minute after Emmanuel Banahene was sent in for Boateng. This was after keeper Michael Addo suffered from a sprain injury after aerial tussle, forcing the technical bench to sent in Nana Bonsu, which exhausted their substitution list. This did not have any impact on the team as they continued the search for the winner, but it was the Starlets, who had the best opportunity to laugh last when Sadat Bukari's invasion into the opponent's area presented Opoku Agyeman a perfect chance to end the game in the injury time, but his curling shot missed the post by inches. He could have made amends a minute later before the final whistle, but for the second time, the youngster messed up a well laid cross from Banahene. This forced the game into the extra time and it was the Ivorians, who benefited immensely from their last substitution, when Issa Ahmed Kosso Kone became a constant threat to the Ghanaian defence, but his efforts were most of the time well dealt with, by Akaminko, who was the real guard's man in defence.
The latter parts of the extra time saw the Ghanaians discovering their rhythm on a smooth path and showing much aggression for the opener.
This, they continued in the second half and it was no wonder when Awudu capitalised on a misunderstanding on the part of keeper Andy Jean Yvess Andre and defender Bosson Ndoua P. Irenee to slot in the first goal in 114th minute.
Four minutes later, Agyemang scored an "insurance goal" for Ghana, when he pounced on a lob from Skipper Ansong, after they had survived a major scare from the Ivorians. The goal, which increased his personal tally to four and put him at par with top scorer Fofana sealed victory for Ghana. The feat also marks the triumphant re-entry of the nation into both the Africa and World Championships, after winning both events twice each, having been Africa's champions in 1995/99 and the world champions in 1991/95. Prior to this, the Starlets, who in the early and mid 90's were a dominant force in both competitions have been absent in Africa and World Championships on two consecutive times. Line Up: Michael Addo/Nana Bonsu, Emmanuel Ansong, Jerry Akaminko, Ernest Danso, Kennedy Korley, James Tagoe, Charles Boateng/Emmanuel Banahene, Peter Eesien/Awudu Abubakari, David Telfer, Opoku Agyeman, Sadat Bukari