Skipper Thomas Partey’s brilliant free-kick in the 31st minute powered the Black Stars to a lone goal victory at the Harare International Stadium on Tuesday to ensure a double over the Warriors of Zimbabwe in the ongoing Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
The important away win, which followed Ghana’s 3-1 walloping of their Southern African opponents 3-1 in Cape Coast three days earlier, propelled the Stars to nine points ahead of the last two Group G qualifiers against Ethiopia and fellow contender, South Africa, next month.
The Stars dominated play right from the blast of the whistle of Egyptian referee, Amin Mohamed Omar, as their hosts sat back to catch them on the break.
Their onslaught nearly paid off in the 10th minute when slippery winger, Kamal Deen Sulemana, weaved his way into the Warriors’ goal area only to see his close range shot blocked by Zimbabwean goalie, Talbert Shumba.
Minutes later, playmaker Mohammed Kudus and Sulemana staged a beautiful symphony just outside the box but when striker Benjamin Tetteh was released, his shot was blocked by the Warriors’ defence.
In the 25th minute the homesters nearly fetched the opener when Baba Iddrisu’s back pass was nearly intercepted by a lurking Terrence Dzvukamanja, but a swift reaction by goalkeeper Jojo Wollacott saved his side from any mishap.
Three minutes later, the tide turned in favour of the Ghanaians again as ubiquitous Kudus hit the crossbar with a sweet volley following a counter-attack and a set-up by an advancing Jordan Ayew.
Partey’s match winner
After 30 minutes of probing for the opener, the Stars were awarded a free kick in the 31st when Tetteh was brought down just outside the box. The resultant kick was driven home powerfully by Partey through the hands of Shumba to the disappointment of the Zimbabweans.
The Ghanaians almost increased the tally when a corner-kick taken by Ayew was parried away by Shumba only for Leicester City defender, Daniel Amartey, to shoot feebly with his unfavourable left foot to the relief of the opponents’ defence.
Back from recess, Coach Milovan Rajevac’s men attacked from the flanks in a bid to get more goals as Ajax midfielder, Kudus, created spaces for Tetteh and Ayew but they lacked the cutting edge in front of goal.
The Warriors responded quickly when Coach Norman Mapeza introduced Knox Mutizwa and Perfect Chikwende in the 63rd and 70th minutes, respectively, to bolster the attack but the duo could not make any meaningful impact.
As the Southern Africans struggled to string their passes together to cause any havoc, the visitors became complacent and relaxed.
At this stage, Coach Rajevac decided to introduce Joseph Aidoo and Daniel Kyereh for injured Alexander Djiku and Ayew to inject some dynamism into the Stars’ game.
The changes, however, failed to break the disciplined Warriors defence as they appeared determined to prevent any further goals.
Rajevac further introduced forwards Samuel Owusu, Andre Ayew in the 85th minute and Caleb Ekuban later on to beef up the Stars attack, but that could not alter the scoreline till the end.