Supersub Osman Bukari saves the day for Black Stars against Angola
Osman Bukari played the super substitute again as Ghana’s Black Stars fought back from a goal down to hold their Angolan counterparts to a 1-1 draw at the 11 de Novembro Stadium in Luanda yesterday in the Africa Cup Of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers.
The result ensured that Ghana remained on top of Group E table ahead of Central Africa Republic who leapfrogged Angola into second place after defeating Madagascar 2-0 yesterday.
The Palancas Negras went into the match in search of a home win but met a resilient Black Stars who held them to a barren first half. However, just three minutes after recess, Lucas Joao sent the home fans in wild jubilation when he scored from the penalty spot after Daniel Amartey was penalised for fouling an opponent.
It turned into a ding-dong battle as the home side came close to scoring on a number of occasions and needed great goalkeeping from Lawrence Ati Zigi to keep Ghana in the game until substitute Bukari, who had been on the pitch barely a minute, scored the equalising goal in the 72nd minute. The Red Star Belgrade forward finished off a pass by Joseph Paintsil after a quick counter-attack initiated by substitute midfielder, Majeed Ashimeru.
Despite missing the trio Andre Ayew, Alexander Djiku and Mohammed Salisu due to injuries, Ghana coach Chris Hughton made four changes to his side that beat the Angolans 1-0 in the first leg in Kumasi last Thursday. He introduced Joseph Aidoo for injured Djiku, Patrick Shindler made his international debut as a right-back as a replacement for Denis Odoi, while Abdul Samed Salis and Antoine Semenyo were given starting roles ahead of Thomas Partey and Inaki Williams who were left on the reserves bench.
Angola started the game on a good note and it took them barely a minute to make their first attempt at goal when danger man, Deivi Gilberto Vieira made a brave run into the Ghana goal area before firing a shot straight at goalkeeper Ati Zigi.
Afterwards, the hosts mounted intense pressure on the Black Stars in search of an early goal to unsettle the Black Stars who struggled to contain the pressure and gave away many fouls.
By the seventh minute, the Palancas Negras came close to scoring again through a 25-yard free-kick but Skipper, Alfredo Ribeiro’s effort was saved by the Ghanaian goalie.
Later, Ghana found their rhythm as Jordan Ayew was very swift and creative on the right and initiated a number of attacks with support play from offensive midfielder Mohammed Kudus and Kamaldeen Sulemana on the left side of attack. In the 15th minute, Mohammed made a terrific solo run from the centre to set up Semenyo but he failed to find the back of the net.
Angola continued to mount pressure with Gilberto proving a handful for the Black Stars defence, with Ghana coming under attack again in the 19 minute after Aidoo lost the ball to Jacinto Dela who set up Helder Costa, but his final connection missed the target.
Three minutes later, Amartey came to Ghana’s rescue with a timely clearance after the defenders were caught off guard following a swift build-up by the Angolans.
A minute before recess, the Palancas Negras capitalised on a defensive error by Aidoo to launch another fluid attack for Gilberto to cut in from the flanks to send home a ferocious shot which went wide.
Buoyed by the home support, the hosts continued the pressure after recess in search of the opening goal and just three minutes into the game, Costa went down to a challenge by Amartey in the penalty box for a spot kick which Joao connected expertly for the opener.
The goal spurred the hosts to continue to run at the Black Stars as they sat back and defended until the 60th minute when Coach Hughton introduced Williams and Paintsil for Semenyo and Sulemana, respectively.
Paintsil brought some urgency to the game by attacking from the flanks and helped to push the Angolans to their own half and often attracted fouls to keep the pressure on the Palancas Negras.
One of his blistering runs resulted in the equaliser in the 72nd minute when he cut in from the flanks to set up Bukari who scored to silence the home fans. It was Bukari’s second goal in four months after scoring as substitute in Ghana’s 2-3 loss to Portugal during the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
With their confidence boosted by the goal, the Black Stars took control of the exchanges and put sustained pressure on their opponents in search of the match winner and by the 80th minute, the Black Stars had taken control of the game and dominated possession in search of the match winner as the Palancas Negras had their backs to the wall in the final minutes of the game defending their lines to split the points at stake.