Hosts and Stars: Angola vs Ghana

25 Jan

(Source: Reuters)

The hopes of a nation rest squarely on the shoulders of the Palancas Negras.  You might even say the hopes of the tournament, as attendance at matches not involving the hosts is historically poor. And the numbers certainly did not disappoint tonight. The Angolans can be proud to have come this far and without too much of  a scare. The Palancas’ previous tests have showcased exactly what they  bring to the table in terms of attacking flair, especially in the opening 8 goal thriller. The Ghanaians have had a tougher time of it, coming through second in this year’s group of death. With the home crowd heavily behind them, Angola will look to please with their performance and hopefully a result. The Black Stars will have to make do, again, without midfield general Essien. Ghana will now rely on the youthful exuberance to shine through as it did when the won the U20 World Cup last year.

Angola flew out throwing the Black Stars off their game and pressing their  home advantage. The opening exchanges saw Ghana’s Kingson almost concede 2 own goals with deliveries from Mabina and Manucho. Imagine the hosts surprise on 16 minutes when they found themselves trailing against the run of play.  Ghana’s class shone through as Asamoah found Gyan with a glorious diagonal pass from halfway. Gyan controlled brilliantly, held off defender Kali and drilled the ball past Carlos into the bottom left. 0 – 1

Angola didn’t lose their nerve and continued to dominate possession. They have actually not had to come from behind yet as they scored first in two of their opening games. The Palancas looked to their captain to drag them back to level terms. Flavio provided an inch perfect cross; Manucho headed it powerfully… but straight to Kingson. One of those “foot either side and he would have scored” moments. The two combined again in the final minute of the half. Flavio muscled his way into the box, held off two defenders and layed it back for Manucho.  The goal was almost unguarded. Manucho blasted over the bar. He should have had two.

The second half seemed somewhat stifled by the host’s nerve. They held the ball well but couldn’t find a way through the well organised Black Stars. Ghana showed great strength of character to hold off attack after attack and sit on their goal lead. They constantly threatened to counter and streaked forward with men in support. Dramani came closest when he found acres of room on the right. He controlled a cross field ball with his chest, but hit his volley at the Palancas number 1, Carlos. Dramani almost rued his luck on 73 minutes, when he was guilty of some sloppy defending. He gave the ball cheaply to Flavio which lead to a corner. The corner caught Ghana napping and Mabina delivered a great ball to the back post. Manucho rose unchallenged… but put the ball well over the bar. Captain Manucho again should have levelled. He should have had three.

Angola fought valiantly to the end, but with the missed opportunities, we all sensed that it wasn’t  to be. The fairytale of the hosts surpassing expectations came to an abrupt end and the Black Stars can begin their preparations for the semi-final.

Final Score: Angola 0 – 1 Ghana

Man of the Match: Flavio

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