Two first half strikes at the Coronation park made the difference as Ghana strolled to a 2-0 win over the Ivory Coast in the first leg qualifier for next year’s All-African Games played on Sunday.
The second leg comes off in Abidjan in a fortnight’s time with the winner over the two legs setting up a date with Nigeria in the final eliminator for the sole Zone III ticket.
The early minute domination by Ghana’s Olympic team saw the confidence of the Black Meteors soar and after fifteen minutes of play, the Ivorians were down by a goal to nil.
Under pressure Ivorian goalkeeper, Vincent Augban miscued his kick which went straight into the body of Ghana’s Nafiu Iddrisu who kept his cool and followed up the ball and calmly slotted in the opener in the 15th minute.
Ghana continued with their delightful play and four minutes later, the Young Elephants had to again pick the ball from the post.
This time, Ghana captain, Michael Helegbe connected home from a rebound after a shot at goal by Tua Khamis had been parried into play by the Ivorian goalkeeper.
Helegbe’s goal proved to be decisive but the Ivorians on some occasions pushed Ghana for a goal.
In the 40th minute, Alex Asamoah saw his powerful shot at goal blocked by goalkeeper Vincent Augban but the striker could not connect home the rebound.
Some minutes after that miss, the Ghana defence came under surge as Daniel Addo came to the rescue to clear an attack by the Ivorians.
The first half ended after that attack as Ghana went into the dressing room 2-0 up.
Back from recess, both sides pushed for goals as the Ivorians appeared to have upped their game.
The away side came close to pulling a goal back after Ghana defender, Isaac Vorsah lost possession of the ball but goalkeeper Eric Nii Baah stood tall to the task as he saved a point blank shot from the boot of an Ivorian attacker.
Ghana made two substitutions before the 75th minute mark with Cecil Jones Attuquayefio bringing on Clement Coffie for Obed Ansah with Tua Khamis going out for Hamza Abdulai.
In the 78th minute, Alex Asamoah missed another chance that would have increased Ghana’s tally on the score cards.
Three minutes later, the premiership’s joint top scorer, Asamoah again blew another opportunity as he blasted way off target with goalkeeper Vincent Augban lying on the turf helpless.
The Ghana bench threw on Eric Bekoe for Alex Asamoah.
With some six minutes to go, goalkeeper Eric Nii Baah pulled a great save in denying the Ivorians a goal as he expertly dealt with a long strike by Kone Issah.
In the 89th minute, a freekick awarded Ghana some 20-metres from the Ivorian penalty area was curled to the far right and went straight to Clement Coffie but the substitute, rather shot into the goalkeeper’s arms.
The game ended with Ghana holding onto their two first half strikes.
Ghana coach, Cecil Jones Attuquayefio in a post game interview rued his sides inability to score more goals but however sounded bullish ahead of the second leg.
“We did quite well. We are inexperienced. This is the first game for the boys and the pressure was on the boys.
“We know how they play now and I tell you it is easy sometimes to play away than home.
“Unfortunately, we missed so many chances. But we are going to work on that. This is the first battle, we are yet to fight the war. And come next two weeks, we would fight,” the Black Meteors coach said.
Ghana line up: gk Eric Nii Baah, Daniel Addo, Michael Akuffo, Isaac Vorsah, Bawa Mumuni, Obed Ansah/Clement Coffie, Tua Khamis/Hamza Abdulai, Anthony Annan, Alex Asamoah/Eric Bekoe, Michael Helegbe, Nafiu Iddrisu
Subs: gk Kotei Blankson, Eric Bekoe, Yaw Frimpong, Clement Coffie, Hamza Abdulai, Mahadi Abubakari
Subs used: Clement Coffie, Hamza Abdulai and Eric Bekoe