Ghana have qualified for the last 16 at New Zealand 2015 as Group B winners after a hard-fought 1-0 win over Panama at Auckland’s North Harbour Stadium. The Panamanians, who exit as a result of the defeat, were undone by a solitary Emmanuel Boateng goal, and missed a late penalty through Fidel Escobar.
Ghana completely dominated the early exchanges and it was the Tetteh brothers, Samuel and Benjamin, who were causing most of the problems. The former has been one of the stars of the Black Satellites’ campaign and in four minutes he jinked skilfully to the byline and measured a cutback for his younger sibling. Benjamin couldn’t oblige with the finish though, making good contact but directing the ball wide of the left-hand post.
Tetteh Jr was soon threatening again, though, and might have scored just a minute later. First, having sprung the offside trap, he forced a good save from Jaime De Gracia, then curled the rebound over with the keeper stranded.
At the other end, Panama had offered little during the opening half-hour but they did finally come to life as the first period neared its conclusion. Indeed, they would have take the lead but for a magnificent block from defender Kingsley Fobi, who slid in to save his side after Edson Samms had looked all set to convert Escobar’s low cross.
Ghana remained the better side, though, and it took a brilliant save from De Gracia to keep the scores level. Benjamin Tetteh could not have struck his angled, left-foot volley any better, but the Panama No1 somehow got a hand to the ball and diverted it on to the far post.
Having been a largely dull affair, the game was transformed in the final ten minutes as both sides abandoned all caution and went for the win. Panama substitute Ismael Diaz was the first to threaten, bursting past a couple of challenges and into the box, but shot wide when a goal appeared certain.
That miss became all the more costly a couple of minutes later when Boateng gave Ghana the lead. It was a tremendous solo effort from the substitute, who drove forward, twisted away from the challenge of Francisco Narbon and curled a superb 20-yard shot just inside the right-hand post.
Panama weren’t done yet though and, after Jesus Araya had rattled the crossbar, they earned an 89th-minute penalty and a golden opportunity to grab a point. However, Escobar – the man fouled – slipped on his run-up and sent a wayward kick high and well wide.