Exactly 18 years today, the senior national football team of Ghana dismantled their Sierra Leonian counterparts 5-0 in FIFA World Cup qualifier.
Anxiety that surrounded the game immediately gave way to high expectation after Charles Amoah shot the Stars into an early lead and the team never looked back, turning the heat on their opponents who hardly looked threatening.
The last time the Ghanaians played in a competitive game, they were booed off the field after losing to South Africa in the Nation Cup. However, skipper Charles Akonnor and his team-mates walked off the field to a standing ovation by the fans, which demonstrated their satisfaction with the team's performance and result. The team's total team-work displayed was a form of tribute to under-fire coach Giuseppe Dossena, whose job has been on the line. However, the positive result chalked could provide the Italian a lifeline after fans applauded him after the game.
Two years ago Sierra Leone put a wedge in Ghana's France '98 World Cup campaign but yesterday the highly motivated Stars virtually signed their death warrant in the competition, with a performance that brought fond memories of Ghana's 4-1 victory over the war-ravaged country six years ago in Accra.
Whilst the team eased pressure off their embattled coach, Charles Amoah, whose absence from CAN 2000 created a lot of furore, justified his status as Ghana's top marksman in Europe by scoring two goals on his debut. The game also saw the return of 'prodigal son' Emmanuel Duah, who scored against the Leone Stars in the 4-1 romp, showed flashes of his old form for 66 minutes before giving way to young Ishmael Addo.
Right from the 13th minute when Swiss-based Amoah scored the opening goal from a fast break acute angle shot, the Stars took control of the match and hardly came under much threat from the Sierra Leoneans. Their ace card, Italy-based Mohammed Kallon was kept in check by burly centre-back Sam Johnson and Samuel Kuffour who created a buffer in defence for goalkeeper Richard Kingson to have a trouble-free afternoon. For 35 minutes, Kingson's job was reduced to picking loose balls and positioning them for goal kicks to be effected. When finally called to duty two minutes later, Kingson excellently tipped a dangerous, goal-bound free kick by Kallon to corner. Right from kick-off, the Ghanaians put up an attacking conscious game, with Otto Addo and Emmanuel Duah playing wide as focal point of the team's attack.
Italy-based Stephen Appiah and Hearts of Oak's Emmanuel Kuffour gave the team's midfield more mobility and gave the frontline men more attacking options.
As the game wore on, the Stars took off their feet from the accelerator and allowed their opponents to claw back into the game but were effectively shielded from scoring range by the impregnable Ghanaian defence. The gangling Addo almost increased the tally on the stroke of half time but goalkeeper Komba Yomba responded effectively to save the 30-metre drive.
The Borussia Dortmund midfielder was a constant threat to the Sierra Leoneans and thus became a victim of rough play until Yaw Preko replaced him six minutes after recess.
Playing in his favourite outside right position, Preko brought more life into the game as his pace became a headache for his markers. Two minutes on, Sierra Leonean defender Mansary Mohammed was sent off after two bookable offences, when he pulled down a rampaging Preko. The numerical disadvantage spelt doom for them as the Stars were fired up.
On the hour mark, Amoah scored his second goal with a carpet shot beyond the reach of Mansary from a rather difficult angle, after a swift build up between Appiah and Preko deep into Sierra Leone's half. Ghana's appetite for goals was further whetted in the 68th minute when Akonnor curled in a brilliant freekick from 20-metres to break the spirits of their opponents.
Preko followed up with a fourth goal in the 75th minute when he connected a perfect pass by George Blay along the bye-line by blasting a powerful shot into the roof of the net. The wide margin afforded players like Appiah to show why he is a hot cake in the Serie A by serving fans some sumptuous footwork, with the crowd respondig with a Mexican wave. But for a deflected shot by Kallon that almost deceived Kingson in the 83rd minute, Sierra Leone were on the receiving end of Ghana's fury.
And two minutes to time Ishmael Addo ended the visitors' misery by scoring the fifth goal with an easy tap-in shot.