Pretoria (SA), Oct. 2, GNA - The national male hockey team, the Black Sticks put up a stellar performance but succumbed 2-4 to the North African giants, Egypt, in the opening match of the Ninth African Hockey Championship at the Tshwane University of Technology pitch in Pretoria, South Africa on Saturday.
The six goals, all produced from penalty corners on a water-based astro turf were textbook masterpieces.
But the Ghanaians' worse enemies on the day were their lack of confidence and the effect of the water-based turf. The team had left Accra a week ahead of the eight-day tournament in order to adjust to the pitch but it was clear from the kick-off that, one week was just not enough for the team to switch from a sand-based pitch, which is slower than the water-based. So, within two minutes after kick off, marksman Sameh Metwally had opened the scores from a well-rehearsed penalty corner, which he lifted into the roof of the net.
The Ghanaians then appeared nervous but had no option than to fight to redeemed the goal. But while they seemed to have gained grounds and had started launching series of raids into the opponents area, wing-back Sameer Mohamed smashed home the second goal for the All African Games champions in the 28th minute.
The Black Sticks then attacked relentlessly as winger Joseph Appiah, the lynch-pin around which the team evolved together with arrowhead Daniel Lamptey harassed the defenders of the North Africans. Two minutes after the Egyptians second goal, Lamptey scored a moral-boosting goal from a penalty corner, which brought the sizeable Ghanaian fans mainly, members from the ladies team to their feet. But three minutes after recess (38th minute), Mohamed put the game beyond the reach of the Ghanaians with a perfect strike, while Metwally also scored his personal second in the 58th minute to make it four for Egypt.
Lamptey scored an image-saving second goal on the stroke of full time to bring the score to 4-2 at the end of the 70th minute. Coach Winfred Sackey blamed the defeat on the nervousness of the players adding, "they gave away too many silly penalty corners." "Something simply went wrong today but all is not lost, the tournament has just began," he told the GNA Sports after the match. But his opposite number, Norbert Nederlof said, "today's victory is the benefit of the six months training tour we embarked on in the Netherlands.
He said the Ghanaians played well but the difference was in the attack "where we confused them with multitude of systems." Most of the boys, who won the All Africa Games in Abuja, Nigeria had given way to a more youthful side, seven of whom had just participated in the World Youth Cup in Rotterdam in Holland. In the second match of the day, Nigeria, who arrived in the morning of the match were hammered 5-0 by an attacking-oriented South Africa team.
Ivan Symons and Steve Phillips both struck twice, while Carr Phillips netted one to complete the demolishing exercise. Ghana (male team) plays against host South Africa on Sunday, while Egypt clash with Namibia. In the ladies division, Ghana would battle neighbours, Nigeria, while South Africa welcomes Namibia.
Danso Poku Aikins, Salya Nsalbini, Isaac Ofori, Ebenezer Frimpong, Isaac Moses, Edwards Oblie, Joseph Appiah, Gad Oblitey, David Ghablah, Alfred Armah, Robert Aryee.