Gyan steers Ghana into Cup of Nations quarterfinals

Togo's goalkeeper Kossi Agassa, right, concedes a goal to Morocco's midfielder Romain Saiss, second left, during the Africa Cup of Nations Group C match in Oyem on Friday night. (AFP)
Updated 21 January 2017
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Gyan steers Ghana into Cup of Nations quarterfinals

PORT-GENTIL, Gabon: Ghana secured their place in the quarterfinals of the Africa Cup of Nations as Asamoah Gyan’s goal was enough for them to beat Mali 1-0 in Port-Gentil on Saturday.
On an appalling playing surface, Gyan headed home from Jordan Ayew’s cross in the 21st minute to score his eighth goal at the Cup of Nations over six consecutive tournaments going back to 2008.
With two wins from two matches in Group D, 2015 runners-up the Black Stars are certain of another appearance in the knockout stage of a tournament they have won four times.
Mali have just one point but are not out of it yet, while Egypt and Uganda meet in the other Group D game later.
The state of the pitch meant the teams were not allowed to use it for their pre-game warm-ups, instead being forced to do use an indoor facility.
The surface did not lend itself to a flowing game of football, but at least the sizeable Malian community in this Gabonese port city made for a raucous atmosphere.
Sadly for them, Ghana initially coped better on the pitch and they should have been in front in the 17th minute.
The standout performer at the last Cup of Nations, Christian Atsu did brilliantly on the right before delivering a low ball to the near post which Jordan Ayew would surely have converted.
However, Andre Ayew took the ball off the feet of his younger brother and stabbed a shot wide.
Nevertheless, Avram Grant’s men were ahead before the midway point in the first period as Jordan Ayew crossed from the right and captain Gyan rose unmarked to head past Oumar Sissoko in the Mali goal.
The Ghana players celebrated by running across to the bench and holding up t-shirts with a message of support for left-back Abdul Rahman Baba, whose tournament was ended by a serious knee injury in the opening win against Uganda.
Sissoko did well to save a Jordan Ayew cross-cum-shot that bounced awkwardly in front of him and Mali then came out with greater purpose after the break.
Just as in their opening goalless draw with Egypt, the introduction of exciting young Lille midfielder Yves Bissouma gave them an extra impetus.
Despite that, they could not find an equalising goal, with Moussa Marega heading straight at Razak Brimah from a Bakary Sako cross and defender Salif Coulibaly hooking a shot just wide after Ghana had struggled to clear their lines.
Ghana were hanging on right until the end, with goalkeeper Razak making a fine reaction save to deny substitute Kalifa Coulibaly from point-blank range in the 90th minute and then beating away a Sako volley in injury time.

Morocco battle back to beat Togo

Herve Renard’s Morocco came roaring back from behind to beat Togo 3-1 in Oyem on Friday and breathe life into their Africa Cup of Nations bid.
In front of a sparse crowd, Mathieu Dossevi had given Togo an early lead in northern Gabon, but goals from Aziz Bouhaddouz and Romain Saiss had the Atlas Lions in front before the midway point in the first half.
Substitute Youssef En-nesyri then smashed in a third goal in the second half as Morocco bounced from back their opening defeat to DR Congo to go second in Group C.
They are a point behind DR Congo and one ahead of the Ivory Coast, who they face in their final group game in Oyem next Tuesday. DR Congo and the Ivorians, the reigning champions, drew 2-2 earlier in the day.
Meanwhile, Emmanuel Adebayor’s Togo prop up the section with just one point, and must win against DR Congo in Port-Gentil in their last match if they are to stay alive.
Renard, who led the Ivory Coast to glory at the Cup of Nations two years ago and also guided Zambia to the title in Gabon in 2012, was staring at the prospect of an ignominious early exit as Morocco fell behind inside five minutes.
Togo broke downfield and Floyd Ayite slid in Dossevi, who guided a low shot across the goalkeeper and into the far corner.
However, Morocco’s reply was swift as they drew level in the 14th minute, Togo ‘keeper Kossi Agassa coming and missing a corner and St. Pauli forward Bouhaddouz heading in at the back post.
It was from another set-piece that Morocco took the lead as Faycal Fajr whipped in a free-kick from wide on the left and midfielder Saiss, who plays his club football in England, headed home.
Captain Adebayor was Togo’s most likely source of an equalising goal but he was denied a quick leveller by the goalkeeper and also headed a Dossevi cross over early in the second half.
With Claude Le Roy’s side forced to push men forward as they chased the game, Morocco put the outcome beyond doubt in the 72nd minute.
Not long on from the bench, Malaga’s En-nesyri tried his luck on his left foot from 25 yards and the ball bounced in front of Agassa on its way in as Morocco secured the most convincing win of the tournament so far.

Today’s matches

Cameroon vs. Gabon (7:00 p.m. KSA)

Guinea Bissau vs. Burkina Faso (10:00 p.m. KSA)


‘Not impossible’ that Formula E will overtake F1, says Felipe Massa ahead of Ad Diriyah race

Updated 15 December 2018
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‘Not impossible’ that Formula E will overtake F1, says Felipe Massa ahead of Ad Diriyah race

LONDON: Felipe Massa has acknowledged the possibility of Formula E becoming more popular than its more illustrious rival Formula One, ahead of his debut at the Ad Diriyah E-Prix in Saudi Arabia today.
The Brazilian ace swapped the roaring engines of F1 for the blistering battery power of Formula E this season, and told Arab News that the idea was not “impossible.”
“On overtaking, Formula 1, that’s a difficult question to answer. But what can I say, is that it’s not impossible. We just need to wait and see how things go, (whether) it is ‘when’ or ‘if,’ but it’s definitely not impossible,” he said.
“Formula E and electric cars are becoming ever-more present, but it will definitely be the future, even in the short-term future.
“It (the technology) has already arrived in some countries and will in other countries, too, it is the future. I think Formula E has used that mentality, even five years ago to build this (motorsport) category,” he added.
Massa, who raced for 15 seasons in Formula One and won 11 grands prix, was also positive about the potential of Formula E as it continues to expand after its inception in 2011 and inaugural season in 2014.
“It will take a little bit of time, it’s not easy to get things perfect straight away, but look at the past two years and how much the championship is growing.
“When I say growing, it’s not just with the quality of the drivers, but also with manufacturers’ teams and companies, who are really getting behind the sport.
“Look how many companies they are signing on as sponsors, on many different levels, even companies that sell fuel,” he said.
“We are even racing (this weekend) in a country known as an oil country. So, I think this shows how much this championship is growing.”
Massa also agreed with comments made by F1 director Ross Brawn, who recently said that the highest level of motorsport had become too predictable.
“Only certain racers can win in Formula One, but Formula E is unpredictable and a good example (of that) is that the winners in all past seasons have been different drivers,” he told Arab News.
The affable driver said he is relishing the new challenge that Formula E will pose to his skills and abilities, adding that with the exception of certain parts of the Monaco and Mexico circuits, each track will be new to him.
“I like a challenge, there is a lot to learn and a lot to test myself with and learning the car, working with the team,” he said.
“Even though I’m experienced in motorsport, with my 16 years in Formula One, this is a new test and I will have to start from zero.”
Meanwhile, defending Formula E champion Jean-Eric Vergne said hearing the words “world champion” after his name was “still cool.”
When asked about the challenge from teammate Andre Lotterer on the other side of the Techeetah garage, the Frenchman was full of praise for the German driver.
“He is absolutely one of the most talented drivers, and I expect him to be on the same level as I am and, for sure, it’s going to be a nice competition between us.
“It will be good for the team, as that will push everybody, and that is what we want as a team.”
The former F1 driver was complimentary about Formula E’s new “attack mode,” but voiced concerns about the danger the system posed to drivers on corners on the challenging Ad Diriyah circuit this weekend.