Avram Grant’s men will be at next year’s Africa Cup of Nations after beating eastern neighbours Togo in Tamale on Wednesday
Two goals in the space of three first-half minutes plus a deflected second half effort from stand-in captain Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu were enough to give the Black Stars the win, despite an early second-half goal from Togo.
Abdul Majeed Waris opened the scoring in the 22nd minute with a precise header after the Ghanaians had controlled the early exchanges before Mubarak Wakaso snuffed out the early inklings of a Togo fight back with a wonder strike just four minutes later.
A blazing start to the second half saw the Hawks pull one back through Jonathan Ayitte before an effort from Agyemang-Badu was deflected into the net to restore the two goal lead and seal the result for the four-time African champions.
The game started with the Ghanaians trying to match the intensity of an expectant Tamale crowd, showing signs of the quality in the squad with Solomon Asante, Jordan Ayew and Baba Rahman dominating the early exchanges for the Ghanaians after the Togolese were left with a lot of defending to do, despite a lot showing of promise in the first minute.
The best chance of the early minutes fell to the much-maligned John Boye, but the centre-back failed to answer his critics with a goal, heading wide after a Wakaso corner found him unmarked at the near post.
There was then a heart-in-mouth moment for the Ghanaians around the 10th minute mark as a Togolese attacker went down inside the box, seemingly as a result of a Boye challenge.
The Togolese seemed to calm the game down around the quarter-hour mark and used a pressing game to win the ball back constantly from the Ghanaians, but they were hit with a sucker punch in the 22nd minute when a delightful cross from the right found Waris unmarked, with the striker making no mistake to open the scoring.
They nearly equalised a couple of minutes later but Adebayor could not get a foot onto a dangerous cross from the right. Togo’s new-found energy was to be short-lived, however, as Wakaso scored a contender for goal of the qualifiers with a long-distance effort that arrowed into the top right corner of the net to a rapturous reception from his hometown crowd.
A few minutes later the Ghanaians were at it again, almost grabbing a third after some more persistent play from Waris saw him put Agyemang-Badu behind the Togolese defence, but with Jordan Ayew free in the centre the stand-in captain went for goal from a tight angle, but only found the side netting.
Adebayor, who had looked the brightest Togolese player, saw his header from a corner go wide as his side looked for a lifeline. It failed to come their way before half-time though, as the Ghanaians managed to keep them at bay without really threatening their goal and see out the half with their two-goal cushion.
The Togolese started the second half looking far more calm than in the first and this time they got their reward, as Ayitte managed to squeeze a header past Razak Brimah to leave the Stars still searching for their first competitive clean sheet of 2014. The goal seemed to spur on the Hawks as they gained even more control of the game, stringing their passes together in a controlled fashion and giving their Ghanaian counterparts the run around.
The Black Stars calmed the storm and started exerting themselves on the game a bit more but were almost caught out from a free kick, having to rely on a last-ditch tackle to cut out a ball across the box which would have resulted in a clear-cut chance for Adebayor on the counterattack. The chance gave the Hawks the momentum back as they started forcing the Black Stars into defensive positions again.
As had been the case all game, however, the Stars struck when the Hawks were looking at their best, as a well-worked move saw Agyemang-Badu’s effort from the right side of the penalty box deflected into the net to restore Ghana’s two goal cushion. The Togolese were nearly handed a second lifeline in the 83rd minute through some poor passing in defence but after being gifted the ball Adebayor could not find the space to shoot, choosing to play in a team-mate who could only test Razak with a feeble effort that looked like sneaking through the goalkeeper’s legs.
Despite their best efforts the Hawks could not muster any heroics as the Stars saw out the game with some solid defending and organisation to book a place in next year’s African Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea.