Ghana welcomed Uganda back into the Africa Cup of Nations with a defeat in Port Gentil on Tuesday.
A first half penalty from vice captain Andre Ayew gave the Black Stars a narrow victory in the opening game of Group D at this year’s AFCON in Gabon.
Ghana was by far the better side in a first half that was dull for most parts. Asamoah Gyan headed a cross from Christian Atsu wide; striker Jordan Ayew completely misfired from what looked like a cross from the right side of the box gone bad, and Andre Ayew toe poked the ball into the arms of Uganda goalie Denis Onyango.
After these attempts, however, came a deserved breakthrough for Avram Grant’s men when Uganda defender Isaac Isinde found the poor pitch at the Stade de Port Gentil sabotaging his attempt at trapping a pass played back to him.
The Ethiopia-based defender missed the ball and had to pull down Ghana captain Asamoah Gyan, who had crept in behind him to capitalize, the referee blowing for a penalty.
Andre Ayew stepped up to take the kick, with an opportunity to have a shot face to face with Onyango for the second time in the half. The West Ham record signing made no mistake from the spot, sending the 2016 CAF Africa-based Player of the Year the wrong way to fire the Black Stars into the lead. It was the 27-year-old’s seventh AFCON goal, a feat that equalled the all-time record for Ghana held by Asamoah Gyan and Osei Kofi.
The second half produced occasional end to end moments, but failed to produce substantial clear cut chances. The terrible condition of the pitch also contributed to depriving the game of the excitement that the talent on display promised. The only highlight was Onyango once again rescuing the Cranes with his well-known quality, saving a dangerous Christian Atsu shot on 80 minutes.
The Black Stars held on to record their first AFCON opening day win since 2012, when they beat Botswana 1-0 in a game played in Franceville, Gabon. The win also signaled a return to winning ways for the Ghanaians, who were without a win in their last five games.
For Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic’s Cranes, it was a sad way to mark their return to the AFCON after 39 years out.
Their last AFCON match, coincidentally, has occurred against none other than Ghana in 1978.