Amidst the festive mood of Diwali, the crowd in Navi Mumbai witnessed an all-African battle as Ghana and Niger met in the Round-of-16 face-off on Wednesday evening as the former reigned supreme by a 2-0 margin.
A penalty-kick from skipper Eric Ayiah (45+4' Pen.) and a second goal in the dying moments of the game by Richard Danso (90') were enough to get the better of the West Africans.
Ghana U-17’s coach Fabin Samuel made one change to the team which comfortably brought India’s World Cup campaign to an end as Ibrahim Sadiq was pushed to the bench with Gabriel Toku starting in the midfield to compete against Ismaila Tiemoko’s side which lined up in a 4-1-4-1 formation.
Ghana kicked off the proceedings on an attacking note as expected however a clever man-marking technique from Niger saw them struggling in front of goal. In the 16th minute, the boys in orange tried registering the opening goal as Salim Abdourahmane attempted to head the cross fed to him; however, an onrushing Danlad Ibrahim stopped his effort as he punched away the ball leading to a collision between the two Africans.
In the 25th minute, the Black Starlets’ tested the Junior Menas as Edmund Arko-Mensah released a left footed shot from the left side of the box but it was saved at the bottom right corner courtesy of an acrobatic effort by Khaled Lawali.
Ghana left no stone unturned to test Niger’s defensive forces for the rest of the first half as the audience enjoyed their attacking performance. It was in the added time of the first half that Fabin Samuel’s junior boys got the much-needed lead as skipper Eric Ayiah scored from the penalty spot following an offensive challenge by Niger defender Farouk Idrissa.
The two teams walked off at the half-time mark with two-time U17 World Cup champions Ghana enjoying the one-goal cushion.
The first chance of the second half came around the one hour mark as Ghanaian Emmanuel Toku’s left footed shot from outside the box was saved by a flying Khaled Lawali. Moments later, the lads in white came close to slotting in their second goal as Edmund Arko-Mensah’s set-piece situation saw Gideon Mensah surge into the six-yard box but his attempt on goal went high over the bar.
In the 86th minute, Ghana were gifted another penalty-kick following Farouk Idrissa’s challenge inside the penalty area. However, captain Ayiah failed to convert the opportunity this time as his right footed shot was saved in the top right corner.
Just three minutes after this, Ghana scored the second goal and sealed their berth in the quarterfinal as Richard Danso’s shot from outside the box barged into the top right corner.
The two goals confirmed Ghana’s place in the quarter-final where they will face Mali in Guwahati on Saturday.