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African All Stars

Ghana 3-1 Sao Tome and Principe: Black Stars finish Afcon 2021 qualifiers in style

21:04 EAT 28/03/2021
Andre Ayew Ghana 2019
The hosts proved too strong for the Falcons in their final Group C matchday fixture at the Accra Sports Stadium

Ghana rounded up their 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualification campaign in fine fashion with a 3-1 home victory over Sao Tome and Principe in their final game on Sunday.

Nicholas Opoku and Abdul Rahman Baba each scored their maiden goals for the Black Stars, adding to a Jordan Ayew penalty, as the home side claimed all three points in the Group C fixture at the Accra Sports Stadium. Iniesta scored the visitors' consolation goal.

The West Africans finished third on the table to book their 23rd qualification for the continental tournament to be held in Cameroon, one point above Sudan who beat South Africa 2-0 on Sunday to finish second on the table to claim the other available ticket.

Ghana came into the game having already booked qualification for the tournament after Thursday's 1-1 draw with South Africa, but that did not stop coach CK Akonnor from fielding a strong XI.

Arsenal midfielder Thomas Partey, Swansea attacker Andre Ayew and Crystal Palace striker Jordan were restored to the line-up after missing the trip to South Africa due to Covid-19 travel challenges.

Italy-born duo Caleb Ekuban and Emmanuel Gyasi, as well as Asante Kotoko striker Kwame Opoku, were sacrificed for the England-based trio.

Veteran striker Luis Leal, who plays club football for Mexican side Sol de America, led the lines for Sao Tome, who had absolutely no chance of securing qualification no matter the score in Accra.

Ghana started strongly, mounting pressure, but it was the visitors who paradoxically had the first big chance as a shot across the face of goal beggingly rolled past without a connection.

Leal then followed up a minute later with a long-range free-kick which missed the target narrowly.

In the 12th minute, Ghana broke the deadlock through Amiens centre-back Opoku, who rose high to head Mohammed Kudus' corner into the net.

Four minutes later, Jordan saw a penalty shout ignored by the referee after he went down in the box under a challenge of Vava Pequeno.

Baba and Partey had close-range chances to double Ghana's lead but the former hit his shot into the side netting while the latter saw his goal-bound shot blocked by a defender.

Ghana eventually made it 2-0 in the 31st minute after Jordan, latching onto a Kudus through-ball and being brought down, picked himself up and coolly slotted the spot-kick into the net.

Moments later, Opoku almost found his second goal of the day from yet another corner but his header this time around went glancing and over the bar.

Five minutes to half-time, Kudus broke down the left after dispossessing Jardel Nazare but his final shot was saved by goalkeeper Aldair D'Almeida. 

After the break, Wakaso drove a shot from outside the box over, before substitute Gladson Awako, who came on at half-time for Bukari, failed to direct a volley from inside the box on target after being picked out by Andre down the left.

At the opposite end, Leal tried his luck with a long-range free-kick again in the 58th minute but his shot flashed wide.

On the hour mark, Ghana found the third goal as Chelsea loanee Baba slotted a shot into the net from close range after Kudus drove his way into the box to set it all up.

In the 83rd minute, Sao Tome pulled a goal back as goalkeeper Razak Abalora, in an attempt to play from the back, saw his ball intercepted by substitute Iniesta, who slotted into an empty net to punish the lackadaisical Asante Kotoko No.1.

Ghana could have restored their three-goal lead just a minute later but former Bayern Munich striker Kwasi Okyere Wriedt, a substitute, failed to keep his composure after being played one-on-one with the goalkeeper, his effort going wide.

At this point, the visitors grew more into the game but failed to get any more clear-cut openings to cause any more harm.

Ghana, though, saw Andre and Wriedt go searching for a fourth goal in injury time, their failure promptly followed by the final whistle.