In a hard-fought match, Ghana’s captain and striker Asamoah Gyan scored in the 92nd minute for the Black Stars to defeat Algeria 1-0 in the African Cup of Nations (AFCON).
Before the game, the status of Gyan, also known as “Baby Jet”, was doubtful due him suffering from a small case of malaria. But the 29-year-old fought through his sickness and was given the start by manager Avram Grant. Midfielder Mohammed Rabiu was replaced by Ghana’s all-time leading scorer and another lineup change for Ghana was defender Mohammed Awal was sat for midfielder Afriyie Acquah. In their last match, the four-time winners of AFCON played a 3-5-2 and were exposed for their defensive weakness losing to Senegal 2-1. Grant after their match expressed that he still believed in the formation but that his side would have to be flexible to get a positive result against the Desert Warriors.
“For the moment, it’s a good system for us but we will not play only this system. Senegal started against us with this formation so you need to be intelligent and you need to strengthen your system,” said Grant.
The 59-year-old switched his squad’s tactics and they played in a fluid 4-2-3-1 which could quickly morph into a 4-4-2 and it allowed them to play better as a unit. Algeria’s manager Christian Gourcuff made three lineup changes of his own. Center-back Rafik Halliche made way for the veteran Madjid Bougherra, forward Riyad Mahrez was replaced by striker Ishak Belfodil and the most questionable choice was striker Islam Slimani being benched for midfielder Saphir Taider.
The game was a scrappy affair with few chances and possession was close between the nations with Ghana gaining a slight advantage of 52.7%. The Desert Warriors had the first legit opportunity to score in the 20th minute when right midfielder Sofiane Feghouli delivered a nice pass to right-back Aissa Mandi who was running down the right-hand side unmarked. His pass picked out left midfielder Nabil Bentaleb, who sliced his left-foot shot wide from eight yards out. Earlier in the match, both teams preferred to play a physical game and many poor tackles were executed. Acquah and Bougherra each receiving yellow cards for their challenges. The Black Stars first solid chance of the game was in the 44th minute when right winger Christian Atsu crossed the ball into the 18-yard box to Gyan but the part-time rapper lost his feet and fell while trying to shoot.
After halftime, the pitch opened as both teams understood that they still had a shot of winning the match. Ghana was more desperate for a victory because another loss would guarantee them being eliminated from AFCON. The Black Stars’ strategy was to use their players on the right side of the pitch like right-back Harrison Afful and Atsu to create chances. Atsu was arguably the best player in the game as Ghana’s lead playmaker completing seven dribbles and two key passes. Both teams used all three of their substitutions but Black Stars midfielder Mubarak Wakaso had the biggest impact out of all the subs due to his game winning assist to the Baby Jet. Wakaso delivered a nice long ball which Gyan got control of and shot past goalie Rais M’Bohli.
With the win, Ghana stays alive with even a chance to win Group C. The ‘Group of Death’ will have their last matches on Tuesday and if the Black Stars defeat South Africa they will advance. Algeria faces Senegal next in a match where both teams will be battling for a spot in the next round.
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