The Black Stars were held to a draw by the less fancied Squirrels who had better spells of play and were denied victory only thanks to the efficiency of the Ghanaians.
Benin were quick out of the blocks and made their early dominance pay with a 2nd minute goal from Michael Pote. Ghana, however, recovered from the early scare scoring twice through Andre Ayew in the 9th minute and then Jordan Ayew in the 42nd minute to take a 2-1 lead into halftime.
John Boye’s second booking, received for time wasting in the 54th minute, reduced the Stars to 10 men and Benin took advantage as Pote scored his second goal in the 63rd minute after a well worked short corner to earn his team a point.
The Beninese gave an early indication of their intentions, threatening with a couple of low crosses into the box which the Ghanaian defence struggled to deal with before making good their threat in the 2nd minute when a through pass caught the Ghanaian defence high up the field allowing Pote to power across the final third of the field, dummy pass a couple of defenders, before poking the ball under the onrushing Richard Ofori to open the scoring.
The Ghanaians tried to calm the game with a cool passing game but the Beninese still seemed dangerous whenever they got the ball down the wing. Ghana, however, found the opening they were craving in the 9th minute when Jordan Ayew latched on to a ball over the top and saw his attempted cut back deflected into the path of his brother Andre Ayew who managed to get the ball under control before squeezing a shot into the bottom corner to bring Ghana level.
The Squirrels continued to threaten with Lumor Agbenyenu and Kassim Nuhu both worked hard as the Squirrels threatened the Ghanaian left side heavily. The Black Stars were however the ones who found the next opening and it came close to half time as Thomas Partey hit a direct ball into Jordan Ayew whose smart turn left him through on goal before he powered his shot into the top right corner to turn the game on its head in the 42nd minute. A couple of Benin crosses late in the half were dealt with calmly by Richard Ofori as the Black Stars saw out the half with their lead intact.
Ghana started the second half better than they started the first but their task was made tougher just 9 minutes into the half as Boye was booked for time wasting, his second booking of the game which reduced the Stars to 10 men. Eight minutes later the Squirrels tested Richard Ofori with a well struck free kick which he proved equal to, punching it out for a corner. Benin found their equalizer from the resulting corner as the Ghanaian defence didn’t react quickly enough to short corner allowing Pote to guide the ball home from a low cross for his and Benin’s second of the night. Ghana threatened to reclaim the lead in the 70th minute as Partey struck a ferocious free kick from distance but Farnolle in post for Benin managed to come up with a save. Both sides had a couple of chances to take the lead but failed to capitalize with Mounie coming closest late on but failing to get his header on target from close range as the game ended level.
While Benin can feel aggrieved they didn’t get the win they wanted they have still made a statement in a group that could be tricky and with their next game against Guinea Bissau they will be hoping to win to increase their chances of making it through the group stages. Ghana on the other hand will be disappointed with just a point from a game they would have expected to win especially as they have a tougher test, at least on paper, in their next game against Cameroun.
By Joshua Ansah, Daily Mail GH