Semenyo’s late strike saves day for Stars

The senior national football team, the Black Stars defeated their Angolan counterparts, Palancas Negras, 1-0 in their first leg Group E Nations Cup Qualifier at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium, yesterday.

It was a match football connoisseurs thought the Ghanaian were going to have it easy to post an emphatic victory, but it was never the case as the visitors proved resolute.

The stadium was packed, reminiscing the Ghana versus Egypt clash in 2014, when the latter was whitewashed 6-1 in a FIFA world cup play-off.

Two minutes into the game, Angola’s Helder Wander Di Costa fired from outside the box as a first warning sign to the Stars butgoalkeeper Lawrence AtiZigiwas equal to the task as he parried the ball to safety.

That wasa wake-up call for the Ghanaians who pushed more men into the game with Kudus Mohammed nearly fetching the opener, but his shot missed the post by an inch.

This was after he picked a good pass from Dennis Odoi in the fifth minute.

The Angolans went closer to opening the scores again in the 15th minute but Manuel Luis Da Silva Cafumana messed up in the Ghanaian box when he had the keeper Ati-Zigi to beat.

It appeared the Palancas Negras came with a game plan; one to frustrate the Ghanaians with delay tactics which worked for them.

It worked for them as they ended the half without a blemish as they restricted the Stars play to the midfield area and coming close on very few occasions.

That Stars slow tempo also helped their cause.

After the break, the Ghanaians turned up the heat on the visitors and pushing forward butgoalkeeper Adilson Da Cruz Cipriano, in post for the visitors, was a delight to watch as he denied the power drives from Inaki Williams and Jordan Ayew in the 52nd and 63rd minutes, respectively.

The packed-to-capacity stadium was quite at this juncture as the teeming fans perched on the edges of their seats as they waited rather impatiently for a Ghana goal.

But much as the Stars kept probing, the Angolans looked stronger, relaxed and composed at the back and midfield.

In a goal-mouth melee, Inaki Williams fired a pile-driver that hit the post in the 65th minutes.

In the 69th minute, Head Coach Chris Hugthon brought on Antoine Semenyo,Joseph Paintsil, Abdul Salis Samed and Osman Bukari for Inaki Williams, Jordan Ayew, Edmund Addo and Kamal DeenSulemana, respectively.

Alexander Dziku was also replaced by Joseph Aidoo following an injury to the former.

The substitutions changed the trajectory of the game a bit, as the clock ticked towards the dying minutes of the encounter.

Five minutes of the six minutes added on time, the entire stadium plunged into frenzy as fans cheered Antoine Semenyo’s late strike for a melee created from a surge into the area of the Angolans.

With the Angolans failing to make a clearance, Semenyo fired from close range into the net to fire the fire the fans into an all-night celebration to hand Chris Hughton his first victory as the Stars coach.

The Stars, currently leading the group with seven points, would engage the Angolans in a tough second leg affair on Tuesday in Luanda.