Black Queens trounce Benin to advance in 2024 Olympic qualifiers
The Blacks Queens of Ghana progressed to the third round of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games qualifiers after defeating their Benin counterparts 2-0 in the second leg at the Accra Sports Stadium on Tuesday, October 31, 2023.
The Ghanaians qualified on a 5-0 aggregate having won the first leg encounter 3-0 at the Stade de L’amitie in Cotonou last Friday. They will now meet Zambia in a two-leg encounter next February for a spot in the penultimate round of the qualifiers.
The game was a tale of persistence and determination as the Black Queens overcame a formidable Benin side. In a first half marked by wasted opportunities and a rock-solid Benin defence, the home crowd had to wait until the 66th minute for the opening goal through offensive midfielder, Evelyn Badu, who sneaked the ball past Benin's goalkeeper Alassane Sowiaratou during a melee in the penalty box.
The suspense did not last long, as just a minute later, the Black Queens intensified the pressure, forcing a Benin player to inadvertently score an own goal in an attempt to clear the ball. This extended Ghana's lead to 2-0, effectively sealing their place in the next round.
It was the ninth consecutive victory for the Black Queens under the guidance of their Swiss coach, Nora Hauptle, having recorded 31 goals in the process and conceded none.
The Ghanaians started the competition on a flying note, recording a 12-0 aggregate win over Rwanda in September and face Zambia who had a walkover in the second round of the qualifiers.
Guided by last Friday’s 3-0 defeat, the Benin ladies matched the Black Queens boot for boot and won a few free kicks which they failed to utilise.
Playing with a rock-solid defence, the visitors gave the Ghanaians very little room to penetrate with their midfielders closely marking Badu, Philomina Abakah and Grace Asantewaa.
The exchanges were concentrated in the half of the Benin side but their defenders rose to the occasion and prevented the Ghanaian forwards from causing any havoc.
In the 36th minute, Alice Kusi came close to scoring but her shot missed the target as the ball went over the crossbar. Undeterred by the opposition from the Benin side, the Ghanaians continued to mount pressure on their opponents with Kusi sending a long pass to Portia Boakye who, in turn, placed the ball in the path of Grace Asantewa but her shot at goal was saved by goalkeeper Sowiaratou.
Occasionally, the Beninese threatened to score but found Ghana's goalkeeper Cynthia Findiib unyielding as the first half ended without a goal.
In the second half, Coach Hauptle shuffled her cards as Blessing Agbomadzie made way for Susan Ama Duah, Vivian Konadu was replaced by Gifty Assifuah, Grace Acheampong came on for Grace Asantewaa, while striker Doris Boaduwaa gave way to teenage star Stella Nyamekye.
The substitutions turned the match in Ghana's favour as Kusi came close to scoring in the 59th minute after a brilliant solo move only to run into the Benin defenders.
Badu came close to breaking the deadlock in the 62nd minute but again was held in check by Benin's defenders, but the midfielder's resilience paid off four minutes later when she slipped past her markers to score the opener.
With relentless pressure from the Ghanaians, the Benin defenders conceded a second goal through an own goal during a goalmouth melee.