Dauda Mohammed’s second-half penalty secured Ghana a 1-1 draw with Algeria in the opening leg of their 2019 Under-23 Africa Cup of Nations final round qualifying showdown in Accra Friday.
The striker, who started in his first call-up in this qualifiers, expertly converted a penalty in the 60th minute to pull the Black Meteors level after Zorgane Adem sent the North Africans ahead early on.
Adem struck from close range just on the half-hour mark to silence the sizeable Accra Sports Stadium fans after some poor marking from left-back Gideon Mensah.
It was a well-deserved lead for the Algerians who looked the better side from start. They had nearly taken the lead on 3 minutes but for Benchaa Zakaria’s tame shot on a one-on-one with goalkeeper Kwame Baah from the 16-yard.
Ghana were controversially awarded a penalty by Ivorian referee Kouassi Fredéric François Biro not long after going down. On 38 minutes, Belgium-based winger Joseph Paintsil was adjudged to have been impeded in his run. Skipper Yaw Yeboah stepped up in an attempt to restore parity from the spot but his effort went over the bar.
Moments before the half-time break, Mensah came close to fetching the leveler with a low drive from outside the Algerian penalty area which forced the goalkeeper to tip the ball to hit the upright before going out for a corner.
After a poor first half, Coach Ibrahim Tanko, who had identified his failure to start a recognized holding midfielder was hurting his side, quickly brought on Isaac Twum for Paintsil right after recess and also replaced Bernard Tekpetey with Joel Fameyeh upfront.
Ghana, who’s shaped looked better with Twum in the mix, chased the equalizer but struggled in the final third. However, in one of the attacking moves, Yaw Yeboah got clipped from the back and won the hosts another penalty.
Dauda took it this time with a calm finish on the blind side of the Algerian shot-stopper on 65 minutes.
The Black Meteors left off the hook in the 87th minute when Farid El-Melali was allowed a glorious chance to snatch the match-winner. The Angers forward had only Kwame Baah on sight but managed to hit straight into the keeper.
The Algerians, who threatened, showed great composure and tactical discipline all-round, do hold the advantage going into the second leg set for Stade du 8 Mai 1945 in Sétif next Tuesday, September 10. Kickoff is at 19:45 GMT.
The winner of this tie on aggregate qualifiers for the Under-23 Afcon set to take place in Egypt later in November. The top three teams from that tournament also pick tickets to represent Africa at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games men’s football tournament.