The Black Starlets qualified for the semi-final of the Africa U-17 championship in Gabon after overpowering host nation Gabon 5-0 in their second group match played yesterday.
A brace each by skipper Eric Ayiah (28th and 57th minutes) and Emmanuel Toku (33rd and 66th minutes), as well as a classic goal by substitute Patmos Arhin ensured that the Starlets booked their tickets to the FIFA U-17 World Cup in India later in the year.
The massive victory, which came three days after the Starlets thrashed Cameroun 4-0 in their opening group game, put the Ghanaians on top of Group A with maximum six points ahead of Guinea, who drew 1-1 with Cameroun in their second match in Port Gentil yesterday.
It was a match that the Starlets displayed superior ball control, distribution, power and goal-scoring prowess to tame the home side who were eager to make amends, having lost to Guinea in their first group match.
Not even the noise by the vociferous home fans could overwhelm the Starlets who produced a textbook performance which make them the top scoring side and easily the team to beat in the competition.
Gabon started the match in quick fashion, attacking in droves with the home fans rooting for them. They showed early promise as they pinned the Starlets to their half and earned three corner kicks under three minutes but failed to convert any of them.
With their eyes fixed on early qualification for the penultimate stage which automatically guarantees them a World Cup spot, Coach Paa Kwesi Fabin’s boys responded quickly and seized the midfield with beautiful counter-attacks and took the game to their opponents.
In the 6th minute, the Ghanaians came close to opening the scoring but Ayiah failed to convert the chance, as the Starlets grew stronger and more threatening with time.
In the 26th minute the Starlets earned a free kick midway into the Gabonese half and a fierce drive by Ayiah hit the post and bounced back into play. Two minutes later, Toku opened the floodgates by converting a spot kick after a Gabonese defender brought down Toku who was in a good position to score.
Toku opened his accounts in the 33rd minute when he sneaked into the hosts goal area with pace and control as he ghosted past his marker and planted the ball to the far end of the post to give his side a 2-0 lead.
Against the run of play, the Gabonese came close to reducing the deficit in the 42nd minute but goalkeeper Donald Ibrahim stretched to push the ball to corner as Ghana ended the first half with a deserved lead.
The second half was not different from the first as the Starlets took charge, attacking from all angles and pinning Gabon to their half. In the 57th minute, Ayiah capitalised on a defensive blunder and showed great skill and composure by trapping the ball before lobbing it over the onrushing goalkeeper Brunel Ilagou to score for Ghana’s third goal and a brace for himself.
With the Gabonese facing an early exit, they put up a late fight and started making inroads into the Ghana half, but the Starlets weathered the strom and hit back with dangerous counter-attacks, one of which saw Toku taking on two opponents on the run before firing the ball at the blind side of Ilagou for a 4-0 lead in the 66th minute.
Substitute Arhin completed the rout in the 76th minute to ensured that Starlets won 5-0 and put their stamp of authority on the competition.