Philip Lawer Alimo, International Freelance Sports Journalist
Ismailia-Egypt, June 26, 2019 – Defending African Champions Cameroon had to dig deep into their reserves to begin their AFCON title defense with 2-0 victory against Guinea-Bissau, as Ghana were held by the Squirrels of Benin in their Group F opening match in Ismailia on Tuesday night.
The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon struggled to breakdown the defensive set-up of Guinea-Bissau. It took 66 minutes of play for Cameroon to break the deadlock through a headed effort from defender Yaya Banana, who was left unmarked from an Ekambi corner for the opening goal.
Coach Clarence Seedorf’s men doubled their tally three minutes later when substitute striker Stephane Bahoken slammed the ball into the net with his first touch of the ball. On the balance of records, six of Cameroon’s seven goals from the 2017 edition of the AFCON held in Gabon were scored after the 59th minute and that pattern seemed to continue as their second half goals from Yaya Banana and substitute Stephane Bahoken was enough to start their AFCON title defence with a win.
Cameroon were originally meant to host Africa’s flagship tournament until the Executive Committee of the Confederations of African Football stripped them off the hosting rights due to poor preparations, as well as security concerns, and Egypt were awarded the hosting privilege six months ago.
This meant that the Indomitable Lions had lost its automatic spot as host nation and had to fight to qualify. They managed to qualify, as well as, overcome a cagey opening game in Ismailia.
Ten-man Ghana fought back from 1-0 down after less than two minutes to lead 2-1 against the Squirrels of Benin in the group’s second game, also played at the Ismailia stadium.
One of the key talking points from the game, was in the 54th minute when Black Stars defender John Boye was sent-off when he carelessly drew for himself a second yellow card for time wasting. John Boye had earlier picked a first yellow card in the 37th minute following a dangerous foot up tackle.
The numerical disadvantage meant that the Black Stars had to labor timidly for survival and a hard fought 2-2 draw with striker Mickael Pote completing his brace. Two spectacular goals from the Ayew brothers, Andre and Jordan cancelled out what so far stands as the fastest goal of the ongoing African Cup of Nations, Egypt 2019 when the Squirrels of Benin raced into a second minute lead through striker Mickael Pote who scrambled home from close range.
The Black Stars replied seven minutes later with a goal from skipper Andre Ayew. Jordan took on a run from the right side of the field with his cross deflected into his brother’s path. Andre controlled the ball before taking a low shot on the turn putting the ball into the bottom left corner.
Jordan finished off the first half in a smashing style through a well-placed Mubarak Wakasu pass when he evaded a challenge from Oliver Verdon after a delightful turn before letting go a rifling right footed shot to give Ghana the advantage in the 42nd minute.
The Ayew brothers have scored seven of Ghana’s last nine goals at the AFCON. Andre’s goal was his ninth overall AFCON goal for Ghana. Ghana next plays group leaders Cameroon on Saturday, while Benin and Guinea Bissau, the other Group F opponents also slug it out same day at the same venue.