AWCON 2018: Amfobea gives Black Queens winning start

BY: Kweku Zurek
AWCON 2018: Amfobea gives Black Queens winning start

The Black Queens of Ghana opened the 2018 African Women's Cup of Nations with an uninspiring 1-0 victory over Algeria at the Accra Sports Stadium.

Bashir Hayford's team dominated the match watched by a sizeable crowd, including CAF President Ahmad Ahmad, Ghana’s First Lady, Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo, and other dignitaries but only seven of their 23 attempts at goal was on target, while their opponents found the target twice from 10 attempts.

The Black Queens got their reward in the 13th minute when right fullback Gladys Amfobea capitalised on the failure of the Algerian defence to score the first goal of the eight-nation tournament. The defender, who plays for local side LadyStrikers, displayed the composure the Ghanaian forwards lacked during the tie to hammer home a powerful volley which sailed over Algerian goalie Kahina Takenint into the roof of the net.

Algerian coach Radia Fertoul deployed her charges in a defensive 4-3-2-1 formation and they appeared content allowing the Queens to possess the ball with their only threat being occasional counter-attacks.

Algerian goalie, Takenint was first called into action in the ninth minute when she parried a shot from forward Sherifatu Sumaila, who was a thorn in flesh for the Algerians throughout the tie.

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Defender Janet Egyir came close to opening the scoring from the resultant corner but her effort was deflected to corner.

On one of their rare forays forward, Algeria's Lydia Belkacemi sprinted with the ball from midfield but hit an air-shot at the vital moment allowing the impregnable Faustina Ampah to clear.

The North Africans, who were robbed off star striker Naïma Bouhenni for the tournament, suffered another setback in the 28th minute when winger Amina Hemour was replaced by Imene Morrouche after a bruising tackle from her Ghanaian marker.

Moments later and before Ethiopian referee Lidya Tafesse signalled for a water break, Ghanaian defender Ampah came close to doubling Ghana's advantage, however, she headed wide Priscilla Okyere's cross.

In the 41st minute, winger Madina Ramdani came close to silencing the home crowd but her headed effort went wide with Ghanaian shot-stopper Patricia Mantey out of goal.

Back from recess, the influence of Ghanaian wingers Portia Boakye and Sherifatu increased on the game with the two players combining in the 50th minute but Sherifatu miscued effort was saved comfortably by Takenint.

Algerian winger Merrouche threatened the Ghana goal on a counter attack but could only fire into the side netting.

Algeria coach Fertoul varied her tactics throwing on forward Assia Sidhoum for winger Ramdani who drew a foul from Ghanaian midfielder Priscilla Okyere who received the first booking of the tournament.

Deep into the game, Ghana coach Bashir Hayford replaced ineffective Samira Sumaila and the ponderous Elizabeth Addo with speedster Jane Ayieyiam and youngster Grace Asantewaa who both injected some much-needed urgency in Ghana’s build-up but it was as if their efforts were undone by the Algerian goalie.

In one such instance in the 70th minute, Ayieyiam went on a run from the flanks into the box but her shot was expertly repelled by Takenint.

The diminutive Jane had the ball in the net in the 71st minute but her effort was ruled out for offside as she wheeled away in celebration.

The Algerians were hanging on at this point and had their goalie to thank once again as she tipped over a deflected shot from Asantewaa.

Asantewaa went close again in the 82nd minute when she latched onto a quickly taken throw-in on the edge of the box but blazed her shot over the bar.

After a water break, Asantewaa and Sherifatu, who put up a Player-of-the-Match display, came close to doubling Ghana's lead in the dying embers of the game but were let down by poor shooting.

The Black Queens will be looking to improve when they face Mali in their second game of the competition tomorrow.