Ten-man Ghana hold on to win
Franceville - Ghana skipper John Mensah turned from hero to villain here on Tuesday as he netted the winner in the 1-0 Africa Cup of Nations win against Botswana only to see red in the second half.
The Lyon defender scored in the 24th minute, when he helped in a corner from the left taken by Emmanuel Agyemang Badu, to bring some life to an otherwise dull start to this Group D clash.
Mensah was picking up the fist red card of the 2012 competition.
The Botswana defenders, who before then looked organised and fired-up, were guilty of ball watching for the experienced Mensah to guide the ball home with his knee after Asamoah Gyan appeared to help on the corner with his head.
However, Mensah saw red in the 65th minute when he committed a professional foul on striker Jerome Ramatlhakwana, who was clear on Ghana goal after a blunder by Anthony Annan.
The Zebras now with a numerical advantage finished the stronger, but they failed to restore parity.
Botswana, who were cagey and defensive in the first half, were more adventurous after the interval.
This approach almost paid dividends six minutes into the second half when they came close to drawing level, but Ramatlhakwana’s header from inside the box was saved acrobatically on the goal-line by Rennes defender John Boye.
Ghana handed Nations Cup debuts to goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey, Boye and Jordan Ayew with usual right back Samuel Inkoom preferred for the team’s problematic left back position.
For debutants Botswana, the only surprise on the starting XI was Phengo Mongala, who was picked ahead of Abendico Powell, a late replacement for the injured Joel Mongorosi.
The Zebras were also missing their most experienced player Dipsy Selolwane, who bagged two bookings during the qualifiers and so was on a one-match suspension.
The Black Stars enjoyed more of the ball in the first quarter of an hour but hardly threatened the goal of their opponents, who packed their defence.
In the opening moments of the game, the lively Andre Ayew was twice felled around the Botswana box as Ghana went in search of an early opening goal.
Botswana often had 10 men behind the ball with only striker Jerome Ramatlhakwana staying up front as they tried to contain the onslaughts of the Ghanaians.
After Mensah’s decisive goal Ghana continued to dictate the pace of the game.
In the 32nd minute, Botswana defender Ndiyapo Letsholathebe literally put his body on the line to keep out a Sulley Muntari full-blooded shot from the edge of the box.
Six minutes later, Jordan Ayew was set up by Muntari at the top of the Botswana box but his shot was weak and so did not trouble Botswana 35-year-old goalkeeper Modiri Marumo.
Ghana were now more daring and soon after Gyan found his way through the packed Botswana defence, but his shot flew off target.