A late goal from Accra Hearts of Oak defender, Vincent Atinga, aided the Black Stars Team B to a winning start in the 2017 WAFU Cup as they beat The Gambia 1-0 at the Cape Coast Stadium on Saturday.
Ghana, who beat The Gambia 4-1 in the opening game of the 2013 edition of the WAFU Cup, were heavily tipped to triumph over the Scorpions but needed a 95th minute Vincent Atinga penalty to sail through the group stages of the competition.
Ghana started the game nervously as The Gambia pressed them in their half in a bid to get an early opener but the Ghanaians turned the tide in the 5th minute when Kwame Kizito connected to Felix Addo’s cross, however, the goal was disallowed by referee Ouedraogo Boukari due to a push on The Gambian defender, Brimah Sidibe.
Ghana coach, Maxwell Konadu, was forced into an early substitution as Hearts defender, Musah Nuhu, was replaced by towering full back, Vincent Atinga, after failing to recover from a knee knock.
The Black Stars kept possession very well but lacked the cutting edge to break the deadlock as The Gambia put more men behind the ball.
In the 35th minute, goalkeeper Joseph Addo pulled off a reflexive save as he palmed away Pape Omar Jobe’s low shot.
Striker, Kwame Kizito, could have put Ghana in the lead in the 40th minute from Amos Frimpong’s perfectly placed cross, but his thumping header flew over the cross bar.
Just a minute after Kizito’s miss, Felix Addo was put through by Gideon Waja against goalkeeper Jobe but failed to hit the target as his fierce shot went over the bar before recess.
Ghana continued from where they left off in the first half as they attacked the Scorpions, with defender, Samuel Sarfo, going close to breaking the deadlock from a 25-yard shot.
Coach Maxwell Konadu made his intentions clear as the going got tough with the introduction of Hearts of Oak diminutive attacker, Patrick Razak, in place of Gideon Waja in the 56th minute.
The Black Stars went close to opening the scoring in the 59th minute again as Isaac Twum’s lofty free-kick rattled the cross bar to the surprise of the teeming supporters that thronged the Cape Coast Stadium.
The Gambia made two quick substitutions as they replaced Touray for Sanney and Jarju for Silla in the 71st minute while striker, Stephen Sarfo, replaced Kizito in the 76th minute as coach Konadu continued to exploit the weakness of the Scorpions defensive set up.
A defensive mishap nearly handed The Gambia the lead in the 81st minute but Amos Frimpong recovered to clear the ball out of danger.
Ghana yet again went close to opening the scoring as substitute striker, Sarfo’s, overhead kick flew just over the bar before failing to tap into an empty net Emmanuel Lomotey’s pass second later.
Just as the game looked to be heading for the penalty shoot outs to determine the winner, Ghana were awarded a penalty after referee Boukari adjudged Thomas Abbey’s shot to have hit the arm of Sanney, which Vincent Atinga expertly put away to win the game for Black Stars.
Ghana will play the winner of the game between Mali and Mauritania.