6th September, 2013
Ghana became the fourth country to qualify for the World Cup Africa zone play-offs when they defeated Zambia 2-1 Friday in a winners-take-all Group D clash in Kumasi.
Goals from Majeed Waris and Kwadwo Asamoah gave the ‘Black Stars’ a two-goal advantage just past the hour mark before Nathan Sinkala netted to create a tense climax.
Ghana topped the four-nation mini-league with 15 points from six games — their only setback being a 1-0 away loss to the Chipolopolo (Copper Bullets) last year.
Zambia ended with 11 points and Sudan and Lesotho, who have two points each, meet in Omdurman Sunday to decide who avoids the embarrassment of finishing bottom.
Algeria, Ivory Coast and Egypt reached the play-offs ahead of the final round and another six places are up for grabs this weekend.
A seeded draw on September 16 in Cairo will divide the 10 group winners into five two-leg ties with the victors qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Only Andre Ayew of three midfield stars recalled by Ghana started, with Michael Essien, whose father died last weekend, on the bench and Kevin-Prince Boateng sidelined by a knee injury.
The home team controlled possession for most of the opening half at Baba Yara Stadium — home to two-time African champions Asante Kotoko — and deservedly led 1-0 at half-time.
Zambia scrambled to safety an Asamoah corner on 10 minutes and Asamoah Gyan was off target soon after having being set up by a superb Ayew pass.
But constant ‘Black Stars’ pressure told on 17 minutes as Russia-based Waris headed the 2010 World Cup quarter-finalists in front.
John Boye crossed from the edge of the box and Waris nodded past Kennedy Mweene to break the deadlock.
The goal emboldened the hosts and Gyan unleashed a long-range attempt that was deflected for a corner while Mubarak Wakaso was just over with his free-kick.
Zambia came into the game as the half-hour mark passed and Ghana goalkeeper Fatawu Dauda needed two attempts to clutch the ball following a Rainford Kalaba free-kick.
Dauda gave his defence another fright just three minutes later as he spilled a shot after a neat passing move only to gather the ball as it ran loose.
The early second-half exchanges produced more Zambian pressure and Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah reacted by introducing Essien on 55 minutes to tighten the midfield.
Just past the hour mark Ghana scored a second goal against the run of play as Asamoah struck from 25 metres with a swerving shot that eluded Mweene.
Zambia halved the deficit 18 minutes from time when Sinkala swept a Kalaba corner past Dauda, but the task of scoring twice more to survive proved beyond the visitors.