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Stars cut Mauritania to size

BY: Peter Sarbah & Samuel Amoesi
Black Stars players celebrating Caleb Ekuban’s goal
Black Stars players celebrating Caleb Ekuban’s goal

Ghana's Black Stars yesterday burst the bubble of a stubborn Mauritania side with a 3-1 thrashing in their international friendly at the Accra Sports Stadium.

Goals from Kwesi Appiah, Caleb Ekuban and Thomas Partey ensured the Stars avoided embarrassment and criticisms by spectators who were not convinced by the performance of the Ghanaian side.

Coach Kwasi Appiah made nine changes to the side that beat Kenya in the final AFCON qualifier last Saturday, with Lumor Agbenyenu and Thomas Partey as the only players to have started the two matches.

And as it turned out, debutants Alhassan Wakaso, Amos Frimpong, Joseph Aidoo and Kwame Bonsu, who came on later in the second half, justified their inclusion as the coach builds his team for the upcoming AFCON in three months.

The second string Ghanaian side were sluggish in the first half but ironically got the opener as early as the second minute when striker Appiah scored from a spot kick after he was fouled in the box.

The Mauritanians immediately captured the midfield and dominated play with their cohesive pattern to the delight of fans as Crystal Palace’s Jeffrey Schlupp and Italy-based Alfred Duncan, especially, struggled to find their feet in the middle.

It was not until the 24th minute when Ghana initiated their first attack that Appiah spotted Agbenyenu at the far left but his shot at goal missed the target narrowly.

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Mauritania also made a brilliant incursion into the Stars’ goal area minutes later when Anne Soulaymane forced his way into the box but a timely interception by Nicholas Opoku averted any damage.

The Stars displayed some jitters at the rear and were forced to do a desperate defending in the 34th minute when under-pressure Joseph Aidoo lost possession only to recover swiftly to the relief of the home fans.

Sensing danger, Coach Appiah decided to reinforce his team with some tested players in the second half which changed the dynamics of the game.

Christian Atsu and Ekuban were introduced for Ernest Asante and Appiah, respectively, on resumption.

Mubarak Wakaso, Jordan Ayew and Kwame Bonsu were also introduced later in the match.

Two minutes into the second half, the visitors equalised from a well-taken free kick behind the box as Ba Adama curled the ball over the human wall to the blind side of goalkeeper Lawrence Ati Zigi, who later gave way to Felix Annan of Asante Kotoko.

The timely changes tilted the game in favour of the Stars as they mounted pressure on the visitors, with Mubarak Wakaso combining effectively with nimble-footed Atsu and skipper Thomas Partey to exploit the frailty at the left flank.

It soon paid off with two goals in the 69th and 71st minutes.

Substitute Ekuban, who was making his second international cap, soared to nod home his second goal in four days from an Agbenyenu cross.

Two minutes later, Partey, who had missed a number of chances earlier, also found his name on the scoresheet when Atsu raced down the left and released Ekuban, who set up the Atletico Madrid star to fire into the roof of the net.