The Black Stars of Ghana beat a plucky Malawian side by two goals to nil in the first leg of the final Cup of Nations qualifier at the Accra Sports Stadium.
Danger man, Christian Atsu put the Stars ahead in the 8th minute with a cool tap-in from close range followed by a stupendous shot by Anthony Annan in the second half.
The goals could have been more but the Stars were wasteful in front of goal with returnee Black Stars striker Asamoah Gyan the worst culprit.
The Al Ain striker was however instrumental in Ghana’s opener with a selfless set-up of Dede Ayew after teasingly outwitting the Malawian goal keeper.
Ayew’s shot fell to Christian Atsu who was lurking at the goal area of the Malawians for a cool finish but a crucial goal for the Stars.
The Flames responded well with some sweet build up which left the Stars chasing their shadows for most part of the first half.
The Malawians were also very physical and gave away many needless free-kicks but the Stars were clueless in the set pieces. Gyan could only force a finger tip save from the Malawian goal keeper in the second half but as many as seven set pieces were virtually wasted.
The Malawians dominated possession in the first half but hardly tried goal keeper Adam Kwarasey in post for the Black Stars.
The Ghana goal keeper saved the blushes of the Stars with a great save in the first half after Annan carelessly gave away possession just at the edge of his goal area.
But Atsu in a man of the match performance was a slippery customer for the flames’ defence and on many occasions attracted many crunching tackles from his markers.
The Porto player had an opportunity for his second on the day, but his well taken shot in the second half took a ricochet off the goal post.
The Stars could not capitalize on a numerical advantage after the Malawian centre back was sent for a second bookable offence with ten minutes left for play.
2-0 it ended in favour of the Stars with the second leg scheduled for Blantyre, Malawi next month.
The following is the details of a live update on the match.
1722 Algerian referee brings the game to an end. 2-0 for the Black Stars with the return leg set for Blantyre in Malawi
1721 The Flames respond with a counter attacker but the final shot goes agonisingly wide.
1721 The Black Stars have an opportunity to increase the tally but Emmanuel Clottey’s shot from close range surprisingly goes wide for a throw-in.
1721 Opare at the receiving end of yet another crunching tackle from the Flames attacker.
1719 The 90 minutes are up, four minutes of additional time.
1717 Crunching tackle on Afful for another yellow and for another free-kick. Taken and wasted.
1715 Gyan out Clottey in for the Stars
1713 Atsu’s short takes a ricochet of the goal post, a near miss for the Stars but the rebound well defended.
1711 Malawian centre back sent off for a second bookable offence. Meanwhile free kick for the Ghanians at an advantageous area. Gyan whips one in but goes out of touch.
1706 Gyan curls one in but forces a great finger tip save from the Malawian goal keeper for a corner. Corner taken but wasted.
1705 Danger man Christian Atsu down after a cluttering challenge on him.
1701 Malawians have an opportunity by Vorsah makes a quick recovery clearing the ball for a corner. Corner well defended.
1658 Solomon Asante in for Dede Ayew.
1657 Atsu wins another free-kick. Always thorn in the flesh of the Malawian defence. Freekick wasted again.
1653 The Flames win a corner-kick. Taken and headed out by Boye. Opare makes a rampaging run on the right sets Gyan up but he is brought for a free kick. Gyan elects himself to take it but his kick goes straight into the wall and the rebound goes out of touch.
1651 Two substitutions for the Malawians.
1647 Atsu again a freekick at an advantageous area, whipped in by Derek Boateng but Boye’s header goes wayward.
1644 Christian Atsu teasingly outwits his marker and sets Harrison Afful who whips in a cross but nobody to connect.
1641 Derek Boateng comes in for Jordan Ayew.
1639 GOOALLLLLL!!!!!!! Anthony Annan fires a bullet which zooms straight into the net for the second Black Stars goal.
1638 The Flames turn the heat on the Black Stars with a great counter attack which whisks just wide.
1630 Players return and the Stars set the second half underway.
1617 The Algerian referee Benouza Mohammed blows whistle for the end of the first half.
1614 Asamoah Gyan played through with a superb pass from Kwadwo Asamoah but Gyan’s shot goes wide.
1610 Kwarasey saves the blushes of a sloppy Stars midfield, pulling a stupendous save from a terrific shot by the Malawian striker.
1602 Kwarasey in an audacious show of confidence as he beats the Malawian striker and coolly passes the ball to Harrison Afful on the left. Reminds me of the Valdes Howler in the el-Classico between Barcelona and Real Madrid.
1601 The flames stream their passes well but fails to penetrate the defence of the Stars.
1558 Christian Astu makes a surging run into the 18 yard box of the Malawians but his final touch too feeble to beat the goal keeper.
1556 The Malawians win a corner kick after a John Boye header goes wayward. Corner taken but cleared.
1553 Stars turn defence into attack with Gyan chasing a heavy volley but the Malawian goalkeeper makes a crucial header to same the Flames from conceding another goal.
1549 Gyan wins a a free kick at an advantageous position. Atsu whips it in, forcing a superb save by the Malawian goal keeper. A rebound header from John Boye enters the net but it won’t count says the Algerian referee.
1547 The game turns physical with flying tackles from both sides but the Malawian midfielder sends a long shot but goes wayward.
1542 Great ran on the right by Opare but a a great challenge by the Malawian defender sends the ball to a throw-in.
1540 Christian Atsu again, dummies his marker but his final pass goes wayward.
1538 GOAL!!!!!!!!! for Ghana. Its Christian Atsu for the Stars. Greate work by Asamoah Gyan who beats the Malawain goal keeper and sets Dede Ayew up. Atsu is at the right place at the right time and slots it in for the first Ghana goal.
1537 Gyan fails to punish the Malawian goalkeeper after he fails to clear a back pass.
1535 A slow build up for the Stars a final pass to Gyan but could not could not control.
1533 A strong cluttering challenge on Annan earns a Malawian player a yellow card.
1531 The Flames make an incursion but a final strike to feeble to beat Kwarasey in post for the Stars.
1530 Malawi set the game underway but the Stars quickly take possession.
1526 Asamoah Gyan wins the toss, meaning the Malawians will set the game underway.
1524 Both teams exchange pleasantries and take photographs.
1521 Its time for the National Anthems. Malawi, first followed by Ghana.
1519 Stand-in captain for the Black Stars read the fair play message as he begins to introduce his team to the dignitaries led by the Vice President Paa Kwesi Amissah Arthur.
1514 The teams return to the pitch all poised for the cliffhanger.
1500 The teams move back into the tunnel to freshen up again for the crucial game. Kick off will be at 1530.
1440 The two teams turn-up for a brief warm-up session under a hot weather conditions. Attendance at the Accra Sports Stadium is not too encouraging with many seats yet to be filled.
The Black Stars of Ghana play the flames of Malawi in a crucial first leg final Cup of Nations qualifier at the Accra Sports Stadium.