What a match!
Torn between watching Manchester City vs Tottenham last night, I edged my bet towards watching Black Galaxies vs Sudan and I have to say I wasn’t disappointed. The opportunity cost was worth better than the alternative forgone.
The match had everything: from intrigue, to suspense to nail-biting exchanges, Ghanaian fans would have been mad to miss it.
The 3:1 scoreline flattered Ghana to be honest as it suggests that they were the dominant side but nothing couldn’t be further from the truth. If the Black Galaxies are to go far in this tournament, massive improvement in their approach to play and quality of deliveries are needed or else their campaign will bite the dust against a more business-like opposition.
Coach Walker had said his boys failed to get into their rhythm against Madagascar but they started yesterday’s match dancing yet again to the tune of complacency as the impressive and flamboyant Sudanese were the ones beating the drum of dominance.
The Sudanese, parading 3 players that featured against the Super Eagles in our ill-fated 2022 Afcon campaign, were playing with flair and a high level of coordination and understanding earlier on with the Ghanaians left clutching at straws.
So, it was no surprise to me and many other observers when a glorious one-two manoeuvre (one of several such moves that Sudan had earlier attempted) found A. G. H. Nooh Mohamed rent-free deep inside Ghana’s 18 yard box in 31 minutes before paying the West Africans the wages of slumber with a cultured finished that sailed beyond the reaches of goalkeeper Danlad for 1 goal to nil.
The Ghanaians were stunned! There coach no less so as he looked like part of a funeral cortège on the stands, already mourning a potential premature death to their campaign. He was watching months of boastings and preparations go up in smoke.
The Black Galaxies needed to rouse from their slumber, and fast!
Glued to my seat, I watched to see, for the second game in a row, how Ghana would attempt to mastermind their comeback.
Ghana now rose to the ascendancy. They started curtailing Sudan and they stepped up their assault into delicate Sudanese area. Still, some of their efforts were speculative and the Sudanese found them ripe for the picking.
As a matter of fact, it was Sudan that came closest to adding to lead when goalkeeper Danlad found himself in no-man’s-land, having ran towards the centre circle and then collide with a Sudanese, but Sudan didn’t make them pay as their Number 6 blasted into open heavens with the goal gaping!
Ghanian hearts were in Ghanaian mouths and for a brief second, I felt Ghanaian! I quickly attempted to snap myself out of it as I had nothing at stake here, such was the intensity of the moment as both teams were serving up a dish of exhilarating football. But the Black Galaxies were living dangerously.
Sudan, bouyed by their mental anguish they were inflicting on Ghana, once again took control of the match with neat passes, well drilled movements, purposeful play and a bit of showboating at times.
I honestly think they got carried away as Ghana’s equaliser came against the run of play. A cleverly worked corner kick routine looped and landed on the feet of K. Yiadom in 48 minutes whose low drive took the mildest of deflections to drag Ghana back into the encounter: 1-1 and it was only the end of the first half.
The second half started with the Ghana I barely recognised. Coach Walker would have been livid with his boys in the dressing room as whatever allocution he delivered was having the desired effects of clicking them into gear.
Ghana were now more composed and physical in their play. They were creating neat goal scoring opportunities from the wings with delicious crosses that held promise. All of a sudden they looked like an initially unsettled baby who was now enjoying delicious and nutritious breast milk from his mother as they sucked away into the marrows of the match with renewed verve and vigor.
Again, for a brief moment, I had to remind myself that I wasn’t Ghanaian as I didn’t know where all this pride and swelling of my head was coming from; in truth, the Black Galaxies were back in business.
In 52 minutes, a teasing cross from the wings needed the most delicate of touches to power Ghana into the lead but their Number 18 fluffed his lines. Great chance, but would that miss come to haunt Ghana? Almost, Sudan were still very much in the tie and Ghana will soon feel their fury.
Just three minutes later. A lovely flighted diagonal cross from midfield found a Sudanese right winger (that guy and that wimg will cause Ghana no end of problems in the course of the the second half) whose low carpet cross evaded the last defender but quick thinking by goalkeeper Danlad meant his outstretched leg saved the day.
In fact, Danlad would go on to gain fame for the rest of the match with no less than three other eloquent, point blank saves to lay claim, even in this early stages of the competition, as goalkeeper of the tournament.
The 61st minute saw Ghana awarded a contentious VAR penalty following a mild contact inside the 18 yard box. After a lengthy consultation, the penalty was awarded and D. Afriyie sent the goalkeeper Spelunking. 2:1 to Ghana in 64 minutes.
Like a Shakespearean drama, the match will go on to have further twists and turns to its plot. In 67 minutes, Ghana’s left winger found himself one-on-one with the goalkeeper only to bungle the opportunity. Before then, a Ghanaian striker had blasted high and wide inside the 18 yard box, to the despair of coach Walker who was watching disconsolately from the stands.
The Ghanaians needed the killer blow but they were shooting themselves in the foot with wayward efforts. That said, Ghana would have a goal chopped off due to VAR awarded offside but by then, the Sudanese had slowly started creeping back into the tie.
The 84th minute saw Ghana frantically clearing their lines following Sudanese onslaught and 1 minute later the irrepressible goalkeeper Danlad produced a breathtaking save to keep Sudan at bay!
Was the action over from both teams? You must be kidding! They were beating away at each other, even at this dying embers of the game, like Mike Tyson fighting Mohammed Ali to the death.
As the match drew to its chilling close, Ghana hit the upright in 90 minutes to collective gasp of their fans. By this time I was full-on Black Galaxies, they had sucked me in. But as a neutral I honestly felt Sudan had done enough to eke out a draw from this thoroughly absorbing encounter. A controversial disallowed Sudanese goal seemed very harsh to me following a well worked move but Ghana could only thank mother-luck for the referee’s interpretation.
Following that injustice, in 94 minutes, I found myself shouting goaaaaaal after the Ghanaian defence had been torn to shreds with a Sudan striker on a one-on-one Mexican stand-off with the Ghanaian goalkeeper deep inside the 18 yard box. Danlad was again up to the task as he put his body on the line to deflect the shot and permanently extinguish any hopes the Sudanese had of getting any fruits from their labour all night.
The kiss of death then came from S. Suraj 98 minutes who finished off the Sudanese once and for all with a sublime finish with the Sudanese defence all at sea. 3:1 it finished and my blood pressure is still some way off returning to normal after such a topsy-turvy experience.
Ghana needs to improve, simple, I said it earlier. Sudan were cute but they lacked sufficient cutting edge to mow Ghana down. Even at that, Ghana still had Goalkeeper Danlad to thank for sparing their blushes. A more technically gifted side will not be so generous.
But for now, Ghana survived and perhaps can look in hope and expectation of sneaking through to the next round.