Ghana booked their seat in the play-offs of the 2014 World Cup qualifiers with hard-fought 2-1 win over Zambia in Kumasi on Friday.
Russia-based striker Abdul Majeed Waris opened the scoring for the Black Stars with a super header, getting on a great ball cross from defender John Boye before Kwadwo Asamoah scored an unlikely 30-yard beauty to kill off the resilience of their opponent in the 61st minute.
Ghana’s joy last for only 11 minutes as Nathan Sinkala pulled away to side-foot a cross to get the Chipolopolo back into the game and left the home fans sitting on the edge in the last 20 minutes.
The experienced of substitute Michael Essien came in handy as he marshaled the midfield to the admiration of the home fans.
The 29-year-old who was shockingly left out of Chelsea’s Champions League squad announced his return to the national team in style, putting up a matured display from the heart of midfield after replacing Rabiu Mohammed.
Coach Herve Renard’s men kept piling for the equalizer but the Ghanaians held on to win the match and secure passage to the crucial play-offs to be played in October.
The Zambian defenders will be felt down by as a momentary lack of concentration allowed Waris to nod home the opener from close range in the 17th minute.
Despite the fine header from the Spartak Moscow forward, Kwadwo Asamoah’s thunderbolt from 30-yards will become the major talking point.
The Juventus star quite uncharacteristically, delivered a piledriver which beat goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene from absolute nothing.
The Zambians looked more determined and rightly so due to their precarious position on the table and enjoyed the chunk of possession with Emmanuel Mayuka, Christoper Katongo, Kalaba and Chisamba Lungu coming to the party.
The physically play of the Southern African side made it increasingly difficult for their midfield maestro Kwadwo Asamoah to contain but yet the Ghanaian defenders thwarted several attempts at goal.
Ghana goalkeeper Fatau Dauda was a bundle of nerves in post with his poor timing nearly costing the Ghanaian on two occasions in the first half.
The Orlando Pirates shot-stopper looked a pale shadow of himself and a sharp contrast of a performance exhibited during the 2013 African Cup of Nations and the qualifiers for the World Cup.
Emmanuel Mayuka proved to be the main threat for the Zambian in front of goal tormenting defenders John Boye and Jonathan Mensah with cheeky ease in the early exchanges.
The Black Stars looked jittery in the opening exchanges with the burden of expectation heavily on their shoulders but they gradually warmed themselves into the game as their confidence grew by the minutes.
Standard Liege right back Daniel Opare provided an impressive cover for Mubarak Wakaso but it was Zambia defensive duo Nathan Sinkala and Stoppila Sunzu who stood stole the show with solid displays at the back.
The Zambians were the better side on the day but Ghana once again proved their mettle on the African continent with a well-rehearsed win.
For Ghana, it would be a sweet revenge having lost to Zambia in their last two meetings.
Ghana will become the first African country to qualify to the World Cup on three successive occasions if they negotiate their play-offs with at a yet to determined team.