The host nation failed to give the home supporters another win to celebrate, in Tuesday’s second group game against Mali’s Female Eagles.
Mali was coming into Tuesday’s game with all to play for after suffering a 2-1 defeat to Cameroon, in their opening game last Saturday. Mali Coach, Saloum Houssein’s side knew they were in for a tough match against the host, who were sitting pretty after their opening win against Algeria.
But did complacency settle in the Black Queens?
Ghana Coach, Bashir Hayford, was adamant that a comfortable win was within their grasp. But it did not prove to be the case; The Female Eagles certainly fought for a point.
In the opening 30 minutes of the game, the Black Queens looked to be the more dominant side, penetrating and weaving their way through Mali’s defense with ease; both in the middle through Captain Portia Boakye and out-wide through the likes of Linda Eshun and Gladys Amfobea.
The chances were mounting for the Ghanaians but lacked the finishing touch in the final third. Changes to the lineup saw Grace Asantewaa, and Jane Ayiyam earn starting spots after creating a spark off the bench that led to the slim win over Algeria.
Despite the Black Queens controlling the flow-of-the game and dominating in possession over the Malians, in the 24th minute, The Female Eagles were presented with a gift after a poorly timed tackle by experienced Center Back Faustina Ampah, set the break down the left flank of the Ghanaian defense until Ghanaian goalkeeper Patricia Mantey impeded Bassira Toure. Mali was awarded a penalty kick in which Toure capitalized, to put The Female Eagles 1-0 ahead.
As the game approached half-time, Coach Houssein’s post-game tactic-reveal proved to be a key factor in their win as Ghanaian supporters witnessed a series of yellow-card bookings, adding to the Malians momentum. To some dismay, Coach Hayford’s changes also saw Ghana’s experienced Captain Elizabeth Addo begin on the bench before being brought on in the 64th minute to level the game for the Black Queens. However, Bassira Toure decided to punish the Ghanaian defense once again. She was at the right place at the right time to tap in the match winner (2-1), after a loose ball found its way to her feet after Mantey failed to deal with the set piece.
As the final whistle blew, deafening jubilation and excitement filled Accra Sports Stadium by supporters of the neighboring country, Mali.
With Mali’s shock defeat over Ghana, qualification into the Semi-Finals remains up for grabs for all four teams in Group A.
Ghana will want to fix what’s broke and improve on the team’s weaknesses that Coach Houssein’s side exploited, as they prepare to face the undefeated Cameroonian side on Friday’s showdown and book their place in the AWCON semi-finals.
By: Markella Suka
(From Across the Pond)