Africa celebrates as Ghana notch continent’s first win of tournament

2010-06-14 00:00

GHANA became the first African country to notch up a victory and asserted their status as perhaps the continent’s best hope at the World Cup with their 1-0 Group D win over Serbia at Loftus yesterday.

Key errors cost the Serbians dearly as they had defender Aleksandar Lukovic sent off in the 75th minute by Argentinian referee Hector Baldassi for a second bookable offence.

In the 82nd minute substitute Zdravko Kuzmanovic uneccessarily handballed in the area, with Ghana striker Asamoah Gyan scoring his side’s 84th-minujte winner from the resultant penalty.

As photographers of the international press left the ground they snapped pictures of a characteristically pretty African sunset over Pretoria.

It was an apt image as the match had been played in an African atmosphere, with many Ghanaians in the stands and South Africans also right behind their continental companions.

The triumphant image of Ghana defender John Pantsil doing a lap with his country’s flag will be beamed across the globe.

In a close first half, chances were hard to come by for both sides.

Group D, which also includes Germany and Australia, is another exceptionally well-balanced selection of teams.

Both sides at Loftus seemed intent on a cautious start in such a tough group.

However, Ghana, aware what benefit three points would be from their opener, stepped things up markedly in the second half.

The Serbians responded in kind, with the result that the second 45 minutes was a far more open, attacking affair.

Serbian central defender Nemanja Vidic said his side missed too many chances before conceding the penalty.

“This game is behind us. There are still two matches to go and anything can happen,” the Manchester United player said.

“We have to try to score goals and we hope we can win.

“I think we approached Ghana really well. We know what their weaknesses are and their strong points. It’s hard to say what went wrong.”

It was the Europeans who shaded the tight first half, and came close to scoring when left-back Aleksandar Kolarov’s free-kick went just wide.

In the dying minutes of the half Ghana’s dangerous left midfielder Andre Ayew’s floated chip from the left drifted close to Serbian ’keeper Vladimir Stojkovic’s left upright.

The Africans lifted their tempo significantly in the second half and began to pin the Serbs back.

Ghana should have scored in the 54th minute when an unmarked Ayew got on the end of Prince Tagoe’s cross, but somehow headed wide.

Two minutes later Ayew athletically won the ball in midfield and shot wide from range.

At the other end striker Nikola Zigic missed a sitter when he miscued a cross from Pantelic. But Ghana continued to probe, with Asamoah Gyan heading John Pantsil’s long throw onto the upright.

After the 73rd-minute introduction of Steven Appiah for Kwadwo Asamoah and the dismissal of Lukovic, being booked a second time for fouling Gyan, the stage looked set for Ghana to push for victory.

But it was the Serbs who stepped things up, with three good chances.

The best of these was when substitute Danko Lazovic won the ball from Pantsil and his squared pass was drilled at goal by Milos Krasic, where Richard Kingson pulled off a reflex save.

Then Vidic headed over from a corner and Branislav Ivanovic shot just off target on the break.

But it was to be Ghana’s night, as substitute Zdravko Kuzmanovic handled a cross above his head, and Gyan buried the penalty into the top right of the net. The striker hit the post in injury time, as Ghana finished strongly.

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