Muntari Saves Le Roy's Blushes
Muntari Saves Le Roy's Blushes Website
Ghana's Black Stars yesterday made a good start at the MTN 26th African Cup of Nations when they gained a 2-1 victory over the Syli Nationale of Guinea in the Group A opening match at the Ohene Djan Sports Stadium. And the man who set the Stadium ablaze was Sule Ali Muntari, whose 25-yarder hit the roof of the net in the dying minutes of the game and saved the blushes of among others, President Kufuor and Coach Claude Le Roy at the high profile first match of Ghana 2008. It was a beautiful pass from the winner of the Samsung Fair Play Award, Michael Essien, who worked overtime to keep the midfield tightly-knit with his ball distribution. The Stars had broken the deadlock in the 54th minute when Asamoah Gyan scored from a spot kick after Junior Agogo had been fouled by Oumar Kalabane. However, the Guineans made amends when they equalised 10 minutes later. Spurred on by thousands of cheering Ghanaians, who had filled the 44,000-seater refurbished Stadium, the Stars made frantic efforts to get the leader that eluded them, as a result of good goalkeeping by Kemoko Camaraby and sometimes erratic shooting by the Stars. At some stages it seemed as if the gods were conspiring against the Black Stars. In the first half alone, the Stars hit the posts three time and saw a chance that was easier to miss than score fly agonisingly off target. Our man of the match Junior Agogo was a constant thorn in the flesh of the Guinean defence, hitting the post and winning the penalty that led to Ghana's first goal. Asamoah Gyan's scissor kick, a few metres from the goal line, flew over the cross-bar in one of the incessant raids mounted by the Stars. The Nationale team also gave the Stars some anxious moments as their danger man Pascale Feindounou spearheaded the attack and became a thorn in the flesh of the Ghanaian defence, pivoted around skipper John Mensah and John Painsil. Occasionally, they made some break-throughs but they were put in check, though goalkeeper Kingson had to pull some nerve-wracking saves. In a change that many fans questioned, Coach Le Roy brought in Andre Ayew, to replace hardworking Quincy Owusu-Abayie 20 minutes from the end. The young tyke"s presence brought fresh blood into the game, though Asamoah Gyan continued to be wasteful. Dede nearly scored with one of his earliest touches of the ball, when his goal bound shot flew straight at the Guinean goalkeeper. As time ticked agonizingly by, it took the magic of Muntari, who had been lackluster at best throughout the game, to bring back the smiles to the faces of Ghanaian fans. And when referee Eddy Maitlet of Seychelles ended proceedings, there were thunderous cheers from the teeming fans, gaily clad in their green, yellow and red national colours. The Black Stars’ victory has brightened their chances of qualifying for the next stage, though they still have to win their matches against Namibia on Thursday and Morocco next week Monday. Earlier, there was a 45-minute display of Ghanaian traditional culture that formed part of the official opening of the three-week tournament by President John Agyekum Kufuor. Also present were FIFA President Sepp Blatter, CAF boss Alhaji Issa Hayatou, EUFA President Michelle Platini and Cote d’Ivoire President Laurent Gbagbo.