Ghana First To Reach 2013 Nations Cup…Zambia & Mali Also Qualify
Starting line-up: Adam Kwarasey, John Paintsil, Harrison Afful, John Boye, Isaac Vorsah, Anthony Annan, Afriyie Acquah/Mubarak Wakaso, Christian Atsu, Rabiu Mohammed/Abdul Majeed Warris, Andre Ayew/Daniel Nii Adjei, Asamoah Gyan.
Reserves: Fatau Dauda, David Addy, Jonathan Mensah, Daniel Nii Adjei, Mubarak Wakaso, Solomon Asante, Abdul Majeed Warris.
Ghana beat Malawi 1-0 in Lilongwe on Saturday to become the first team to qualify for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations alongside hosts South Africa.
Midfielder Afriyie Acquah, making his first competitive start for the senior team put the Black Stars in front in the 3rd minute to secure Ghana a fifth consecutive Nations Cup appearance since 2004.
The win handed the Black Stars a 3-0 aggregate victory after winning the first leg in Accra 2-0.
Despite the physical nature of the game, the fixture passed without a single booking from referee Abdulrahman Khalid with Ghana’s Christian Atsu, one of the worst victims of the hard challenges.
Ghana took the lead inside three minutes after Asamoah Gyan’s free-kick was palmed for a corner.
Acquah was on hand at the near post to connect Andre Ayew’s pass into the box from the resulting set-play as the Parma player registered his debut senior goal.
Though falling back so early in the game, Malawi were back in the mix when their best chance in the opening exchanges saw Adam Kwarasey tipping over Joseph Kamwendo shot from outside the box.
Ghana held onto their solitary lead to end the half.
Malawi returned from the break much stronger but Ghana’s efficient play and good defending by from John Paintsil, Harrison Afful, John Boye, Isaac Vorsah and Anthony Annan ensured that Kwarasey kept another clean sheet over both legs.
After the interval, Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah made his first substitution when he took off goalscorer, Acquah for debutant, Mubarak Wakaso.
He followed up with the introduction of another debutant, Daniel Nii Adjei for Andre Ayew before Abdul Majeed Warris came on for the hardworking Rabiu Mohammed.
In a related development, reigning African champions, Zambia, who held a 1-0 lead from the first leg, had a tough task in Kampala as Uganda nearly produced a shock result.
The return leg in Kampala turned out to be a really intense and action-packed encounter as the hosts took the lead in the first half to level the score on aggregate.
Geoffrey Massa did well to control a well-taken free-kick on his chest before rounding the Zambian goal-keeper, Mweene, to slip the ball into the net.
1-1 it ended after 90minutes of regulation time.
But the Zambians held their nerve to go through 9-8 on penalties.
It was as close as one could get but the reigning champions finally made it through to the tournament in South Africa.
Meanwhile, Mali also booked their place in South Africa with a 7-1 aggregate victory over Botswana. Mali won the first leg 3-0 and romped home to a 1-4 return leg win in Botswana.