Afcon 2021Q: Ghana dispatch São Tomé to finish top of Group C
The Black Stars are joined by Sudan to the Nations Cup in Cameroon next year.
Ghana eased past São Tomé and Principe 3-1 in a dead rubber final qualifying game to the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) Sunday evening.
The Black Stars had already punched their ticket for a ninth straight Afcon outing after drawing 1-1 with South Africa away in their penultimate Group C qualifier last Thursday.
Coach CK Akonnor made four changes to his last starting lineup against Bafana Bafana – introducing England-based trio Thomas Partey, skipper Andre and his brother Jordan Ayew who did not travel to South Africa due to UK’s COVID-19 quarantine rules for travels to ‘red zone’ areas. Winger Osman Bukari, who came off the bench the last time, was also handed a starting berth.
Visiting São Tomé gave some good account of themselves in the very early exchanges of the game at the Accra Sports Stadium but eventually went behind by the 12th minute from a set-piece.
Young Ajax midfielder Mohammed Kudus picked out Nicholas Opoku with a corner kick and the towering centre-back met the ball with a perfect header for his debut international goal and opener for Ghana.
On the half-hour mark, Jordan Ayew won a penalty for the Black Stars after he was tripped from behind in the São Tomé box. The Crystal Palace striker elected himself and converted with cheeky ease, his 18th senior goal for Ghana.
The opening 45 minutes ended 2-0.
Ghana returned to the second half with a change in one personnel. Coach CK Akonnor decided to hand 2009 Fifa U-20 World Cup winner Gladson Awako his first senior cap by introducing him into the game for Osman Bukari.
Awako slotted straight into midfield and came close to scoring but his effort which came off an unfavourite left-foot missed the target.
Kudus, already with an assist, brilliantly provided another one right on the hour mark – this time for left-back Baba Rahman who fired home from close range.
With a 3-0 lead, Ghana made more changes with Akonnor handing debuts to Imoro Ibrahim, Justice Blay and Kwame Afriyie Opoku – the Colchester United youngster whose surprise call-up raised eyebrows. WIllem II striker Kwasi Okyere Wriedt also got his home debut for Ghana by coming on for Jordan Ayew.
But Ghana cheaply gave a goal away to São Tomé in the 83rd minute when goalkeeper Razak Abalora attempted a pass from the back but the ball fell the way of second-half substitute Jokceleny Fernandes Carvalho to plant home into an empty net.
The encounter ended 3-1 with an injury concern for skipper Andre Ayew who received a bad knock in an attempt to score with the last kick of the game.
Ghana thus finish at the top of the Group C standings – on 13 points and have Sudan, who defeated South Africa 2-0 at home to tally 12 points, join them to the Cameroon 2021 Afcon.
Ghana XI: Razak Abalora – Benson Anang, Baba Rahman/70′ Ibrahim Imoro, Nicholas Opoku, Ismail Ganiyu – Mubarak Wakaso/78′ Justice Blay, Thomas Partey, Osman Bukari/46′ Gladson Awako, Mohammed Kudus/78′ Kwame Afriyie Opoku, Jordan Ayew/70′ Kwasi Okyere Wriedt, Andre Ayew.
Unused subs: Danlad Ibrahim, Eric Ofori Antwi, Kwame Opoku, Joseph Adjei, Emmanuel Boateng, Emmanuel Gyasi, Joseph Esso.
Sao Tome XI: D’Almeida, Cardoso, Ivonaldo/46′ Martins, Lecy, Leal, Nazare, J. Neves, Nilton/80′ A. Neves, Vava, Viegas, Ze Carlos/66’Carvalho.