The Black Stars of Ghana comfortably cruised to a 2-0 victory over Lesotho in Maseru on Sunday afternoon.
Coach Kwesi Appiah made three changes to the side that got a hard fought win in Sudan last weekend, with Christian Atsu, Samuel Inkoom and Kwadwo Asamoah coming into the side.
It would be a milestone Match Day for two of Ghana’s starters, left back Harrison Afful (35th cap) and center midfielder Kwadwo Asamoah (55th cap). For Afful, the game was particularly more significant as he had been the only member of the current squad that had played when Ghana last faced Lesotho away in June 2008 – an indication of how far he has come with the team.
Leaders of Ghana’s Group (D) Zambia had dropped points with a draw at home to Sudan on Saturday, which meant a win for Ghana would send them a point clear on top of the table, and with the priceless upper-hand going into the big last day clash against the Zambians in Kumasi on the 6th of September.
The Ghanaians sought to build attacks carefully, knowing rushing their game without a proper end result could result in an early burn-out as well as an influx of frustration. Kwesi Appiah’s men were slightly the better side approaching half time, though the Basotho proved dangerous on the break.
Sulley Muntari, a man who has had good luck against Lesotho in recent times (with two consecutive goals in his last two games against them in October 2008 and June 2012) was almost red-carded, after dangerous tackle, but referee Thierry Nkurunziza let him off the hook.
The Stars were on the receiving end of a massive confidence boost, going into half time with a valuable lead. John Boye powerfully headed in his third International goal in 26 caps off a Sulley Muntari corner to send the small number of Ghana fans inside the 20,000-seater Setsoto National stadium into ecstasy.
In the second half, Ghana picked up where they left off, with Asamoah Gyan threatening with a couple of chances as he had done throughout the first half.
Sulley Muntari had to be pulled off a few minutes after the hour mark, a substitution that from the look of things didn’t seem performance based.
Muntari was apparently showing signs of bad temper, constantly going into challenges dangerously, a situation that looked like it was going to end with a matching orders. Kwesi Appiah averted the risk.
Dominic Adiyiah, who got two clinical goals when Ghana last met Lesotho, was brought on for Boakye Yiadom.
Ghana began to find their rhythm slowly, growing into dominance after 70 minutes. The Basotho, who had promised to stop the Stars in their tracks despite having no possible chance of qualification, soaked the pressure, though the Ghanaians looked determined to kill the game off.
Captain Asamoah Gyan had trumpeted just how important – “very very,” he said – it was to secure the three points against the Basotho, and how it was important that the team worked hard to assure themselves of a win.
Gyan put his words into action, sealing the win for Ghana with a goal on the 84th minute. The goal, Gyan’s 35th for Ghana, means he is now only a goal away from equaling the (recently verified) all-time top scorer record of Ghana held by legend Kwasi Owusu with 36 verified goals.
Gyan, who has now scored 7 goals in 11 games since he was named captain of the Black Stars last year, urged his charges on to finish the game hard, as the referee signaled four minutes of time added on.
They did finish hard.
Ghana won and went top of Group D with 12 points, a point clear of Zambia ahead of the big clash in September.
Kwesi Appiah looked satisfied. Two tough away games in the space of just over a week, two wins, five goals, six points. Operation qualify for Brazil 2014 very much on course.
Ghana XI – Fatau Dauda – Samuel Inkoom, John Boye, Jonathan Mensah, Harrison Afful – Sulley Muntari (Agyemang Badu 65’), Rabiu Mohammed(Rashid Sumaila 90+), Kwadwo Asamoah, Christian Atsu – Richmond Boakye Yiadom (Dominic Adiyiah 63’), Asamoah Gyan ©