A clash of the giants to kick-things off today in Group C. Algeria, may favourites to win the Africa Cup of Nations against fellow giants Ghana, looking for redemption after a controversial exit from last year’s World Cup under a cloud of allegations, suspensions and supposed monetary demands. Both teams exited Brazil last year in very different circumstances, the Algerian Desert Warriors with new fans aplenty after a series of exciting performances and a formidable effort against eventual champions Germany in the second round.
Today’s fixture, in the Estadio De Mongomo pitted top of the group against bottom, Algeria having surged late in the game to a 3-1 over South Africa and Ghana losing to an injury time Senegal winner. The full house was expectant of a battle and some exciting football from two of the continent’s big names, historically and presently. The first half though, brought very little in the way of entertainment to the fans, both teams unable to create chances, attack after attack stalling with very few passes being able to be strung together by either side. Asamoah Gyan, back in the side after a bout of malaria had little or no service for large periods and the half time whistle came without the Black Stars registering a single shot on target.
The second half had a promising start, Avram Grant seemingly having encouraged some more attacking play from his Ghanaian side, perhaps in the knowledge a single point would not do their chances of a last 8 placing, any good. Jordan Ayew surged forward into the Algerian box, cutting inside before a deflected shot rolled harmlessly into Algerian ‘keeper Rais M’Bolhi’s hands. Five minutes later Gyan was presented with his first clear chance of the game heading wide from a near-post position from an Andre Ayew cross. Ayew was again the orchestrator on the hour mark, this time finding brother Jordan in the box, his flicked effort flying wide. The game opened up somewhat from here, Algeria also looking to push on in the hope of a winner, Yacine Brahimi creating an excellent chance for Spurs midfielder Nabil Bentaleb, whose shot was inches wide, a let off for a shaky Black Stars defence. Time was ticking for Ghana though, as the game seemed to peter out with a lack of opportunities either end. Algeria seemed more than content to see out the draw which would put them on 4 points going into a third game of an extremely tough group. A draw would be bad for Ghana though and it’s to their credit the way they did not give up the fight in this match. With the final whistle only seconds away Mubarak Wakaso sent a long ball forward from deep inside his own half. Gyan chased the ball down with Algerian defender Caarl Medjani in tow, but was able to use al his strength and guile to control and slot past M’Bolhi, producing the game’s finest moment and a goal worthy of winning any game.
Post match the Black Stars coach Grant admitted to Gyan’s lack of fitness, the captain being unable to train properly, but was included due to his penchant for scoring important goals. Algerian coach Christian Gourcuff bemoaned his side’s lack of tempo, promising improvements for their final game in which they would not be settling for a draw.