Ghana dominates midfield for 1-0 win
An 85th-minute penalty from Asamoah Gyan ensured Ghana began their Group D campaign with victory against 10-man Serbia. (Photo: Asamoah Gyan, Ghana)
The striker converted emphatically from the spot when Serbia substitute Zdravko Kuzmanovic was penalised for handball attempting to clear a dangerous cross.
Raddy Antic’s side had struggled to contain Ghana’s dominance in midfield and their task was made even more perilous when defender Aleksandar Lukovic was red carded for his second bookable offence in the 74th minute.
The four-time African champions had dominated large stretches of the game, creating sufficient opportunities to win by a greater margin than the scoreline suggested.
Serbia boss Raddy Antic named his strongest starting XI following Manchester United defender Nemanja Vidic’s return from illness.
Meanwhile, Ghana manager Milovan Rajevac, a Serb, omitted European Cup-winning midfielder Sulley Muntari in midfield, while Kevin-Prince Boateng, who represented Germany under-21s, lined up for only his second appearance in a Black Stars shirt.
Despite the lack of clear-cut first-half chances, the first 45 minutes were played at a rapid tempo as both sides displayed slick passing moves, albeit without the crucial addition of a quality final ball.
Ghana created the first genuine opportunity of the match when a stinging goalbound left-foot strike by Kwadwo Asamoah was deflected wide by the sprawling right leg of striker Nikola Zigic, while John Mensah and Asamoah Gyan failed to capitalise on half-chances shortly after.
Serbia’s best opportunity came from a set-piece when Aleksandar Kolarov’s superbly struck 30-yard left-footed free-kick curled past the left-hand post.
Ghana once again dictated the tempo at the start of the second half, with Andre Ayew miscuing a header wide with his marker Vidic well beaten.
Gyan went even closer soon after when he leapt elegantly to meet John Pantsil’s long throw into the 18-yard box, only for his powerful six-yard header to skim the outside of Vladmir Stokjovic’s left-hand post.
Although Serbia were not without their chances – a Marko Pantelic cross was well blocked by Isaac Vorsah with Zigic lurking – Antic’s side showed little attacking threat in the final third.
And Serbia were forced to endure a nervous final 15 minutes when Lukovic was sent off for a second bookable offence when he held back Gyan on the half-way line.
However, Richard Kingson produced a fine stop to deny Milos Krasic when the CSKA Moscow midfielder fired a stinging 12-yard strike straight at the keeper following an enterprising left-wing run from Pantelic.
But Ghana eventually made their dominance count when Kuzmanovic inexplicably left his arm lingering when attempting to head clear a dangerous cross, allowing Gyan the opportunity to step up and wrong-foot goalkeeper Stokjovic with a powerful penalty.
The Rennes striker almost added a second in injury time when his curling shot struck the post with Stokjovic beaten.
By Pranav Soneji
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