Sports News of Friday, 30 June 2017
Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah was left to reflect on several missed chances by the Black Stars after a 1-0 defeat by Mexico in an international friendly at the NRG Stadium in Houston.
Ghana went down to a first-half penalty to leave Appiah frustrated with a display that was high on chances but low on quality finishing.
The opportunities created would have pleased the Ghana boss, but there are also many failings which have highlighted the work ahead for the returning coach.
Finishing remains the long-term problem
Ghana put five past Ethiopia in a Nations Cup qualifier, but it was obvious that Mexico would represent a much sterner test.
The good thing for Appiah is that there was no shortage of chances by the Black Stars.
Waris Majeed could have scored inside two minutes, Raphael Dwamena went close and Frank Acheampong missed two huge chances.
After the Ethiopia game suggested goals could come from any direction, this was a good reminder that, against better opponents, the team cannot afford to fluff their lines.
Lumor here to stay
Lumor Agbenyenu had another solid game at left back, providing Appiah with a key attacking threat from deep throughout the contest.
His runs were intelligent, and the crossing improved throughout the match.
It is to the player’s credit that every Ghana move seemed to develop from his end. It would please Appiah too that he stuck to his defensive duties well and was rarely ruffled in one-on-one situations. He wasn’t beaten for pace either.
If Baba Rahman was watching, he would be right to be worried about taking his spot at left-back back when he recovers from his injury.
International level a step too far for a few players Appiah handed a debut to Isaac Sackey and then hauled him off at half time after a testing 45 minutes.
The Turkey-based player might have been grateful for that given his struggles in the first half; he lost the ball too many times, didn’t tackle effectively and his passing was poor.
It was a display that suggested Appiah may not be phoning him up about the August and September World Cup qualifiers.
While you could forgive Sackey because of stage fright, the same cannot be said for a few others.
His replacement Mohammed Abu didn’t fare much better, exposing perhaps why he can’t get regular games at Major League Soccer side Columbus Crew, while Waris did little to suggest that Avram Grant was wrong to overlook him for the African Cup of Nations, as he missed a series of decisive chances.
Ofori is a true baller
One of the positives Appiah will have taken from the evening’s work was the performance of Ebenezer Ofori.
He hardly played a bad pass, his first touch was gold and his use of the ball was hugely impressive.
He controlled the pace of the game and set the team forward in a fine manner, and it’s increasingly looking like he has one slot in central midfield to himself.
Will the likes of Mubarak Wakaso, Afriyie Acquah and Thomas Partey be left to compete for the other spot in the midfield?
Appiah needs Plan B, Plan C, and maybe even a rethink
Appiah dropped Wakaso, Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu, Jeffery Schlupp and Andy Yiadom for the June games, and while the Ethiopia game suggested they were not badly missed, a better Mexico side demonstrated that Appiah might need to be more cautious with his overhaul.
In truth, unlike against Ethiopia, the new names didn’t dazzle, and with a busy period coming up, Appiah needs to give himself more options. For instance, Harrison Afful seemed to struggle in the first half, and when he was pulled out, Rashid Sumaila didn’t particularly glitter at right-back.
Sackey was by no means an upgrade on Badu, and when things got tight in the second half, there seemed to be one route which was to hit the ball in the hope that Dwamena would use his big frame to shield the ball and play someone in.
It worked sometimes, but not always.
For Appiah, the priority now must be to find a better balance between the old and the new before the World Cup qualifiers resume.