England Held Against Ghana




Football

Football

England’s friendly against Ghana ended in a 1-1 draw after Asamoah Gyan’s late strike cancelled out Andy Carroll’s goal.

It was a sell-out crowd at new Wembley and they made for a crackling atmosphere. This was billed as a friendly, but a friendly in name only. With a huge fan following and a World Cup to forget, Ghana had a point to prove tonight. There was pressure on Capello too for experimenting too much with the arm band according to most fans. England were without veterans like Gerrard, Lampard, Ashley Cole and Rooney. In their absence, Jack Wilshere, James Milner and Glen Johnson got starts. Matt Jarvis was on the bench, along with Danny Welbeck and Scott Parker. Ghana were also missing key players like Kevin-Price Boateng and Michael Essien. But there were still names like John Pantsil, Sullei Muntari and Asamoah Gyan clearly marking Ghana’s desire to win the fixture.

England were quick to get on the front foot and establish the pace of the game, same as on Saturday in their win over Wales. Aston Villa wingers Ashley Young and Stewart Downing were looking very fluid and very dangerous in the opening stages, combining well with each other. Baines and Young connected well down the left and the winger blazed his shot just over from the edge of the box. Ghana responded in kind with Gyan firing from forty yards out and then even once from closer, only to be denied by a very inspired Joe Hart at goal.

England were clearly missing Scott Parker’s solid presence in the holding midfielder role with Barry not quite able to keep the Black Stars at bay. Wilshere fed Downing down the right flank, but he got his shot all wrong and fired wide with his weaker foot, even though the keeper was stranded at his line. It was a high tempo match and both teams were matching each other inch for inch.

Downing, again in the thick of things, received a long ball across the pitch, cut in from the right and passed it to Young. Darting in from his flank, he turned and made space for himself before belting a curler that forced keeper Kingson into a full stretch dive to tip the ball past the post. Muntari played a long ball from deep and found Adiyiah on the receiving end and Hart, who was moving in the wrong direction made a fine reflex save to deny the young forward. James Milner played a low cross and Young slid in to score what they call a sitter. But somehow the ball went over the crossbar from three yards out. Embarrassing, but Young would make up for it yet, in the first half.

Two minutes from the interval, Downing got the ball just on the edge of the box after a super pass from Young and poked it into the path of Carroll who made no mistake and fired straight into the bottom corner. The striker was far from having a good night’s performance, but he got his chance and this was his first goal for England.

The second half resumed with England looking even more confident with the goal. Wilshere looked dangerous with his sharp, direct runs at the back four and then once passing it to Young whose shot was agonizingly over the bar. Agyemang-Badu made an incisive run into the area but Cahill made an excellent tackle to halt his progress. Ghana were stepping up to the plate now and after a bit of pressure on the England box, Pantsil took a shot that looked menacing but it flew over, after ricocheting off Barry. Milner tried his own luck with a strong left-footer that had Kingson at full stretch again. It was heartening to see Ghana respond with a lot of moves forward instead of passing it around that has come to characterize friendly matches these days. Jonathan Mensah had a chance to bring Ghana back on level terms, but his header from the corner sailed wide.

Welbeck, who had been pursued by the Ghana Federation to represent them for the last two years, made his England debut coming on as a sub in the closing stages. Understandably a lot of Ghana fans were disappointed and made it very clear. Matt Jarvis also created history by being the first Wolves ace to represent England in twenty years when he came on with twenty minutes to go. Both were introduced into the game, with Capello feeling the fate of the game sealed. But with seconds to go, all went lose.

Gyan looked to be out of space and out of time when he got the ball on the edge, but slipping past a heavy-footed back four, he let loose a clinical strike into the corner and this time it was beyond Hart’s reach.

This had been a fantastic friendly with great atmosphere and a great performance by both teams. The best moment? The Ghana team rushing to their fans at the end of ninety beautiful minutes.

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