By Prince Dulzy
Andre Ayew made no mistake from the spot in the first half to give Ghana victory over Uganda in their Group D opener on Tuesday in Port Gentil
Ahead of the match Uganda were full of confidence they will beat Ghana having only lost one against them in their last five encounters, but Ayew ensured the game ended on a high note for the Black Stars making no mistake from the 12 yards.
Uganda were playing their first AFCON game after almost 40 years of absence – coincidentally their last game was against Ghana in the 1978 final where they lost 2-0 to the Black Stars.
Ghana, who have reached semi-finals in each of the last five AFCON tournaments, losing three finals in the process, were favourites to win the match.
Ghana started the game with sharpness and made few dangerous attacks, which ended up with them having the penalty. Sloppy challenge by Uganda defender to bring down Christian Atsu in the penalty area.
READ MORE: Team Profile Ghana
But after the penalty, Ghana struggled to find any fluency against a resolute Uganda side, who also created good chances.
In the second half, Uganda fought hard in search of the equalizer and tried several crosses inside the box, but Daniel Amartey and John Boye were always there to clear them. It seemed Avram Grant had his tactics right to bench Ghana favourite Jonathan Mensah and opt for Amartey who has familiarized himself in midfield with Leicester City in the Premier League.
Read more: Team Profile Uganda
At some point a draw looked the most likely outcome as the Cranes of Uganda kept on pilling pressure and attacking at the half of the Black Stars, but as compact as Ghana were they kept their cool. Individual displays from Uganda star man Miya were still not enough to penetrate the stubborn Ghana.
Daniel Amartey and Chritian Atsu apart, the performance of the entire Ghana team was unconvincing, but for the whole of Ghana, the result mattered far more.
A win was the perfect start for Ghana and they can only hope it can bring together a fractured country where fans are very angry with the team because of off field issues.
Christian Atsu was billed as the “Man of the Match” but it was Daniel Amartey at defence who was the outstanding performer against Uganda.
Ghana play Mali in a crunch clash on Saturday at 4pm, while Egypt come up against Uganda later the same day.
This is what the coaches had to say after the match:
Avram Grant (Head Coach, Ghana)
I’m happy with the three points. We could have played better but winning is the most important in tournaments like this. We had to take on the pressure in the second half but at the end of the day I am happy.
Uganda is a very tough team and playing against them is never easy. We got a few chances but we won. The second game will be different but there are no easy games in this tournament.
We shall wait and see Baba Rahman’s injury. It is only the first game and the most important is to win. Andre and Jordan Ayew had a good team. In the second half we were a bit fatigued and the players wanted to keep the threee oints, and we played in a clever way to win the game.
Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic (Head Coach, Uganda):
We haven’t been here for 39 years. In the first half, we had what I call stage fright. We comitted a mistake that I cannot explain and Ayew scored. At halftime, we needed to awaken the players so that they believe we can play in tournaments like this. We made a risk at the latter stages playing 3-2-5 but it didn’t work. I am very proud of my team and will not look for individual mistakes. My team has shown that we have the technical and physical ability but we still have to work more. We will play against giants Egypt and Mali and we will make sure to give 200% of our efforts.
We came with a mission to prove that we didn’t qualify by accident, and I beleive we showed that. We showed that we can play even for more than 90 minutes. But sometimes there are some naive mistakes maybe because of the pressure of being a goal down. I have learnt that at this level of competition we cannot make silly mistakes like what we’ve done and we will not do that against Egypt and Mali.
We have done everything to get a good result and this have been a great lesson for us. We showed we are capable to play against the best. I congratulate Ghana who are always a top team. We will have two key players back from suspension and I believe we can do better against Egypt.
Download our mobile app today.