Johannesburg (AFP) – AS Roma teenager Felix Afena-Gyan, 19, scored as Ghana cruised to a 3-0 win over Madagascar on Wednesday and claimed the leadership of Group E as 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifying kicked off.
Angola came from behind to edge the Central African Republic 2-1 in the same section and lie second, behind Ghana on goal difference in a competition that will produce 23 finalists for the Ivory Coast.
In the other match, dominant Libya failed to convert a penalty but still won 1-0 against brave Botswana in Group J in Benghazi.
Qatar World Cup qualifiers Ghana, who welcomed captain Andre ‘Dede’ Ayew back after he served a two-match ban, controlled the opening half against Madagascar in Cape Coast without scoring.
The deadlock was broken on 53 minutes when a run down the right flank, a cross and a dummy left unmarked Mohammed Kudus with the simple task of firing into the net.
Afena-Gyan, seen as a future international star, doubled the advantage three minutes later, flicking the ball into the net after a clever corner manoeuvre.
Substitute Osman Bukari completed the rout on 86 minutes by getting ahead of a Malagasy defender and rounding goalkeeper Razakanirina Rakotohasimbola before pushing the ball into the net.
Ghana, who shocked Nigeria three months ago to book a fourth World Cup appearance, face the Central African Republic in Luanda on Sunday, then head to Japan for World Cup warm-ups.
– Mammoth task –
The four-time African champions face Japan in the Kirin Cup in Kobe on June 10 and Chile or Tunisia in the final or third-place play-off four days later in Osaka.
Ghana face a mammoth task in Qatar to get past the first round having drawn Cristiano Ronaldo-inspired Portugal, Uruguay and South Korea in Group H.
In Luanda, Angola laid siege to the Central African Republic goalmouth, but the closest they came to an early goal was a shot that rebounded off the underside of the crossbar.
Completely against the run of play, the visitors took the lead on 32 minutes when Simon Nlend sidefooted a cross past goalkeeper Hugo Marques.
Angola captain Alfredo ‘Fredy’ Ribeiro blazed a second-half penalty wide before two goals in four minutes turned the tide in favour of the home side.
M’Bala Nzola levelled on 72 minutes, nodding a corner into the net at the far post, and a shot into the corner of the net four minutes later from Jacinto ‘Gelson’ Dala won the match.
French coach Corentin Martins made a winning debut in charge of Libya, who last reached the Cup of Nations finals in 2012.
The match-winner came when a Sanad al Warfali penalty was parried by goalkeeper Goitseone Phoko and Saleh al Taher hammered the loose ball into the net.
There are two qualifiers on Thursday with minnows Mozambique and Rwanda meeting in Johannesburg before World Cup qualifiers Tunisia tackle improving Equatorial Guinea in Rades.
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