Group C – the Group of Death starts today, first up the biggest fixture of the tournament so far with Ghana’s Black Stars taking on the Senegalese Lions of Teranga. It promised to be a great match with both teams boasting strong attack lines but injuries and illnesses would play their part in both teams starting line-ups. Senegal missing the injured Sadio Mane and and Diafra Sakho, whilst illnesses have ruled out Asamoah Gyan (malaria) and John Boye (fever).
Another full house, creating a great atmosphere in the Estadio de Mongomo in the Wele-Nzas Province of Equatorial Guinea, saw Ghana make the better start, looking assured on the ball and willing to attack. Though coach Avram Grant has been in charge only a matter of weeks, the side looked a cohesive unit, Christian Atsu in particular causing the Senegalese defence problems with his trickery and pace. It was Atsu on the quarter hour mark who broke free in the box managing to toe the ball ahead of Senegal goalkeeper and captain Bouna Coundoul, resulting in a clear penalty. Andre Ayew stepped up to slot home, sending the partisan Ghanaian fans into raptures, a deserved 1-0 lead for the West African giants. Chances continued to come for the Black Stars, both Atsu and Mensah should have done a lot better with their chances, Mensah in particular heading a decent chance woefully wide, all this before the half hour mark. Led by the battling Kara Mbodj, the Senegalese dragged themselves back into the game with a clear game plan, to get as many long balls and crosses into the Ghanaian box. And credit to Alain Giresse, coach of the Teranga Lions, who had obviously done his homework as Ghana constantly struggled with the aerial battles in their own box, Mbodj heading against the bar and Ghana keeper Brimah Razak flapping at crosses unconvincingly on more than one occasion before the half-time whistle.
The second half saw Senegal come further into the game, causing plenty of uncertainty in the Ghana defence, Baba Rahman reduced to needless fouls, lucky to escape a yellow card from referee Bernard Camille more than once. The pressure continued until just before the hour mark when Diouf evened things up, collecting the rebound from his own headed effort back off the post and poking into the net. It had been coming and now the Senegal team sensed victory, not content with a draw, throwing everything at the battered Ghanaian defence. Moussa Sow and Mame Diouf were both wasteful with good chances and with time ticking on it seemed there may be yet another one one draw at the Championships. But it was not to be, Senegal refused to settle for the point, increasing the pressure with cross after cross and with the last kick off the game got the reward they so justly deserved, Fenerbache’s Moussa Sow turning from villain to hero. After build up play from Kouyate and a neat touch from Diouf it was left to Sow to strike home from inside he box giving Razak no chance.
A great and deserved victory for a strong physical Senegal side, Giresse remarking after the game in agreement with Avram Grant that he loss does not mean Ghana are out, as much as Senegal are not assured of a Quarter-Final spot, but it certainly looks a lot better for the Lions of Teranga.