Ghana have gone through to the quarter-final stage at the top of Group B when Niger succumbed to a 0-3 defeat at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
The Black Stars are to face debutants Cape Verde in the next round after captain Asamoah Gyan, Christian Atsu and defender John Boye gave them a convincing victory to send the Mena packing.
Niger started the game the more aggressive and determined of the sides as the Mena looked to get the upsetting win that will guarantee them progression into the next round causing the Ghanaian defence a number of uncomfortable moments early on.
But it was the Black Stars who hit them on the counter in the 6th minute as Albert Adomah’s cut back from the right found Gyan who controlled well before smashing home his first goal of the tournament to give the Ghanaians the lead.
The Mena still kept going forward and after poor control from Moussa Maazou and some last ditch defending from John Boye, Niger thought they had found the equalizer, but Sidibe Modibo’s strike was disallowed for a foul by Maazou on goalkeeper Fatau Dauda in the build up to the goal.
All the concentration going forward was, however, leaving Niger vulnerable at the back and a carbon copy of the counter attack that led to the goal saw Gyan scuff his shot this time round. Niger, however, did not heed the warning and were hit on the counter attack again as Atsu played a delightful one-two with the Al Ain striker whose return pass was perfectly placed to allow the Porto man to control on his chest before slotting the ball into the bottom corner for his first goal of the tournament.
Niger, however, still kept going forward and were almost hit on the counter attack again almost a few minutes later as Kofi Dankwah was left facing four Ghanaians alone but the defender managed to intercept the final ball to avert a third goal. Just as Ghana seemed to be finally settling on the ball, however, Niger almost pulled a goal back on the counter attack as Modibo almost got a foot on Maazou’s cross across the face of goal. That chance put Niger back on the front foot but the Ghanaians were soon hitting on the counter again as Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu forced a save out of the goalkeeper with a shot from 20-yard out.
The second half started in similar fashion to the first as a good start for Niger was almost erased with another good counter attacking move but this time Atsu spent so much time trying to decide whether to shoot or cross and ended up doing neither with a weak effort. The Ghanaians, however, did not have to wait long for their third goal as Daouda could only parry Gyan’s header from a free kick into the feet of defender Boye who bundled it home. Dankwah had to be alert a couple of minutes later as a cross from Asamoah almost got through to Gyan. Maazou then headed wide from a great cross just seconds later as Niger went on an instant counter attack.
The third goal, however, seemed to put an end to the countless counter attacks as both teams seemed to have finally started to make more use of possession. Despite both teams still creating chances neither goalkeepers seemed overly disturbed though Dauda had to be alert to deal with a weak back pass from Paintsil as the game petered out, failing to provide any more excitement as the Black Stars held on for the win.
The win means Ghana finish top of their group with seven points and will be meeting Cape Verde in the quarter-finals while Niger will be taking comfort from the fact that they managed to represent their country in a second consecutive Africa Cup of Nations and will be going back to Niamey with their nation’s first point at the tournament.