When the fourth official lifted the electronic board to show up 4 minutes of added time, there were growls and some jeers all over where I sat to see the game and to an extent the Stars deserved every bit of it.
For 94 minutes at the blustery Tamale Stadium, against an organized, dogged Uganda side, Ghana looked short of ideas.
Asamoah Gyan was misfiring. Jordan Ayew was buzzing around but there was little in the way of support for the Aston Villa man, who has won plaudits this season for how well he has played. Heading into the dying moments of the crunch clash, the Black Stars had managed two shots on target, countless number of fruitless corners and plain indecisiveness in the final third.
The Stars began poorly. In the first half, there was barely a performance of note. Frank Acheampong was running up and down the wings mainly in support of Baba Rahman whose side had been targeted by the Cranes’ coach Milutin Sredojevic and winger Nicholas Wadada was running rout. Christian Atsu had flashes of brilliance but they were way below the level we know the chap to give us on a regular basis.
Basically, it was possession without penetration. Efforts but no effervescence. Clad in white but not putting in what it takes to be victorious on the day. The Black Stars won as many as seven free kicks on the edge of the Ugandan area but the end results were the same – blazing over the bar or straight into the keeper’s arms and stating claims for the naysayers who believe Ghana are as bad as set pieces as they are at winning trophies since 1982. Atsu had the final chance to put Ghana in front from one of his trademark positions but the ball was placed just wide off the right side of the goalkeeper’s post to end the first half.
The Black Stars began the second half better than they did in the first. There were brilliant exchange of passes between Atsu and Acheampong, who freed Jordan Ayew in acres of space but he was brought down in the area. It proved a good spot for a goal from a set piece. This time the turn of Asamoah Gyan, he hit the ball straight into the waiting arms of 29-year-old goalkeeper Denis Onyango, who had a brilliant game for his country in this one and the last time the Cranes drew in Kumasi in 2014. The men in white probed and probed. They worked their socks off looking for the all important goal that would’ve decided the fate of the game and probably have turned the tide of opinion towards the team but it all couldn’t come together.
In the 77th minute, Jeffery Schlupp was thrown on in place of Frank Acheampong. It proved to be a like-for-like change. One of Grant’s famous masterstrokes in recent games but the chap’s arrival did not coincide with any real improvement. Daniel Amartey went close with his head. His effort was tipped over the bar. The resulting corner kicks found the heads of Boye and Asamoah Gyan but they could not connect to give the fans of Tamale, who were already happy to have the game being played in their city, a form of extra celebration.
The major talking point in the game though will be the fact that the referee refused to send off Nicholas Wadada after showing him two yellow cards for fouls on Frank Acheampong. One that would’ve changed the dynamics of the game but not entirely the reason the Black Stars couldn’t find a way. The Black Stars may have to wait for the other group game between Egypt and Congo to have a fair idea of how bad it is for them to have not scored at home. They kept the record of not losing in any qualifying game since 2001 but the record of scoring in every qualifying game since 2010 had been breached. The Black Stars huffed and puffed. There was no late show to save their blushes for an awful display. There were no real chances by the Ugandan side to jangle the nerves of the Black Stars but generally it was a game everyone will believe that Ghana should’ve won.
By Yaw Ofosu Larbi|3news.com|Ghana