Ghana Kick off 2023 With 1-0 Win Against Angola

The Ghanaian national team kicked off 2023 with a 1-0 victory against Angola in what would be the first match in charge for former Brighton manager Chris Hughton, who replaced Otto Addo at the helm following the FIFA World Cup. The match took place at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium in Kumasi, Ghana.


The Black Stars boasted a star-studded line-up featuring Arsenal midfielder Thomas Partey, Ajax wonderkid Mohammed Kudus and Southampton winger Kamladeen Sulemana, whilst Angola offered several individual standouts such as ex Sporting man Gelson Dala and Spezia’s M’Bala Nzola — currently fifth in Serie A’s top scorers race.


As expected, Ghana were able to dominate possession (57%) and had the bulk of chances (21 shots to Angola’s 10, 9 shots on target to Angola’s 1), but their errant finishing saw them enter the interval 0-0. They struggled to transition from midfield to attack as Kudus was tasked more with making the off-the-ball runs into the final third rather than dropping deep and carrying the ball forward. Center forward Inaki Williams struggled to make an impact due to Ghana’s lack of creativity, making just 16 touches throughout the game.


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Angola impressed in the first half with winger Helder Costa torching the Ghanaian defense, winning five of nine ground duels and completing two of three dribbles as well as winning two fouls. Angola manager Pedro Goncalves made a change after a half-hour with Bruno Paz making his debut and replacing Show, following that up with three more changes in the 65th minute.


The second half started in the same fashion as the first — Angola created chances upon chances but lacked the finishing edge, whilst Ghana were unable to get a foothold in the game. This would change in the 69th minute as Antoine Semenyo replaced Inaki Williams, Salis Abdul Samed replaced Edmund Addo and Joseph Paintsil came on for Jordan Ayew.


The entrance of Paintsil in particular would see Ghana’s urgency in the final third go up a notch, but the game remained level as the clock ticked towards the six minutes of extra time. Ghana received a free kick from outside the box, with Kudus serving an audacious free kick that was blocked by Neblu at the near post. Paintsil tried to find a way past but his shot too was blocked, and this would rebound into the path of Semenyo, who was at the right place in the right time to slot home and grab three points.


The former Republic of Ireland international Hughton followed in the footsteps of the last four Ghana managers in winning their first AFCON qualifier on home soil, and he does so thanks to a last-gasp winner from Semenyo, who was born in England and made his debut last June. This would be the last kick of the game, a lethal blow for an Angola side that had dug deep and tried everything it could to win the match.


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Kudus was unable to put the ball into the back of the net but nevertheless proved why he is Ghana’s biggest attacking threat, his creativity shining through every time he touched the ball. His world-class skill and commanding presence in attack would see him showcase his talent in Kumasi, with fans chanting his name every time he touched the ball.


In his first match at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium, Sulemana played like a veteran throughout the match with two key passes, eight of eight dribbles completed and nine of 13 ground duels won. Between him (21), Kudus (22), Semenyo (23) and more, Ghana have the makings of a young spine that could make a genuine push as one of the finest in Africa.


Ghanaians filled the 40,000-capacity stadium to the brim, proving why many African supporters have likened the stadium’s atmosphere to Anfield. When asked to compare the Baba Yara to other stadiums, Hughton responded, “Probably none. I have been involved in some big atmospheres but it’s different here (Kumasi). Sometimes, the game is won on a last-minute goal and certainly, the supporters can take credit for this”, Chris Hughton said.


Ghana currently sit atop the AFCON 2024 qualifiers with seven points from three games. They will be taking on Angola on Monday in Luanda before facing off against Madagascar in June and hosting Central African Republic in September. The top two teams in the group advance to the 2024 African Cup of Nations, and a win against Angola could put Ghana in prime position to qualify for the tournament for the 24th time.


By: Gideon Amoah / @Laka993

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / DeFodi Images