Ghana have booked their place at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) after beating the Central African Republic (CAR) at the Baba Yara Stadium on Thursday.
The Black Stars left it late and had to come from behind to chalk an important 2-1 victory over Raoul Savoy’s resilient side.
Louis Mfouta’s early goal was cancelled out by a free-kick from Mohammed Kudus, before substitute Ernest Nuamah scored late on to seal victory for the hosts in Kumasi.
Despite missing Thomas Partey, Daniel Amartey and Mohammed Salisu, Chris Hughton’s named a strong line-up against the Wild Beasts.
The 67-year-old made the big decision to drop captain Andre Ayew from the starting line-up but still picked a team with a mixture of youth and experience.
Lawrence Ati Zigi started in goal, with Alidu Seidu, Abdul Baba Rahman, Alexander Djiku and Joseph Aidoo forming the back four.
The partnership of Abdul Salis Samed and Elisha Owusu played in midfield, while Jordan Ayew and Osman Bukari operated from the right and left flanks, respectively.
Mohammed Kudus was also deployed in the no.10 role, while Inaki Williams started as the team’s arrowhead ahead of Antoine Semenyo.
Despite boasting the better team, Ghana made a poor start to the game and struggled to retain possession as CAR dominated the opening exchanges.
Savoy’s side carved their first opening after just four minutes when Namnganda was played through on goal but his poor first touch let him down and allowed the home side to recover.
Two minutes later, Baboula broke free on the left flank and sent in a low cross but Seidu reacted quickest to clear the impending danger.
Ghana had to wait till the 13th minute to make their first foray into CAR’s box when Bukari chased down a long ball and beautifully cut back to Kudus, but the West Ham star hesitated in shooting and eventually saw the ball nicked off his feet.
The game’s first shot on target came in the 19th minute, Mafouta dispossessing Ayew off the ball before firing a fierce shot that was tipped over the bar by Ati Zigi.
The Black Stars were eventually punished for their lethargic start when Mafouta got second-time lucky by sneaking in behind the defence to score the opening goal in the 25th minute.
The CAR forward beat the offside trap and dribbled past the onrushing goalkeeper before slotting the ball into an empty net.
Conceding first seemed to spark Ghana in life, with Hughton’s side opening up and taking the game to the visitors. Despite struggling to create clear-cut chances, the Black Stars found their breakthrough late in the first half, with Kudus scoring from a free-kick.
The second half saw very few chances coming the way of both teams but Ghana’s bench ultimately proved to be the difference, as substitutes Semenyo and Nuamah combined to make it 2-1, with the former setting up the latter for a tap-in.
The victory sees Ghana qualify for the next year’s AFCON in the Ivory Coast as winners of Group E, while CAR misses out after Angola also picked the other qualification ticket after finishing as runners-up in the group.