Ghana became the first African nation to taste victory in South Africa, getting a helping hand from their opposition defeating Serbia 1-0 in their Group D opener at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
In what had been a tightly contested game for most of the match the late stages proved to be devastating for Serbia. It began with a yellow card to Aleksander Lukovic in the 74th minute, his second of the match, resulting in a red card and leaving the Serbs a man down.
What followed less than 10 minutes later would be a gaffe of incomprehensible gravity.
While chasing down a ball harmlessly heading towards Serbian keeper, Vladimir Stojković, defender Zdravko Kuzmanovic tried to head the ball to the goal keep but miss timed his jump and subsequently hit the ball with his hand. The play occurring in the box immediately resulted in a yellow card and a penalty kick.
Stepping up to take the free kick was striker Asamoah Gyan, who scored Ghana’s first ever World Cup goal in 2006. He made no mistake burying the shot in the top left corner to take the goal and eventually the three points, once again scoring the first goal for Ghana in the tournament and taking Man of the Match honours.
Immediately after scoring the goal Ghana nearly added to the tally, as Gyan broke in from the right side of the goalkeeper sending a shot past him. Though he beat the Serbian netminder he could not beat the post as the ball caromed off the inside of the woodwork and out of bounds.
Coming into the game there was no shortage of story lines as Ghana’s coach, Milovan Rajevac, is a native of Serbia. After the victory Rajevac made a point not to celebrate but knew taking the three points would be monumental for Ghana’s efforts to escape the group stage.
This was also Ghana’s first test without their star midfielder Michael Essien who is out with a knee injury he suffered in English Premier League play with Chelsea.
The early stages of the match was telling of how the game displayed both of the teams strengths as Serbia looked to control the ball in their midfield seeking holes in the Ghana defensive. The Black Stars responded with a counter attack that was effectively creating scoring opportunities on a number of tries.
In what looked to be a match en route to a definite draw, Ghana ensured itself the upper hand in a group that includes powerhouse Germany who were scheduled to play later in the afternoon.
Serbia will be fighting for their tournament lives from here on in as they face top tiered Germany in their next match on Friday. Ghana will be looking to build on the momentum gained from their first victory as the take on Australia on Saturday.