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)


Simona Halep positive despite Dubai defeat by Belinda Bencic

Updated 18 min 11 sec ago
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Simona Halep positive despite Dubai defeat by Belinda Bencic

  • Former world No.1 blames three-set loss on tiredness after nine matches in 13 days.
  • Halep has high hopes for the rest of 2019, saying her game is in good shape.

LONDON: Simona Halep is still certain a good year lies in store for her despite losing to Belinda Bencic in the Dubai quarterfinals.
The Romanian former world No. 1 was the favorite to win her second title in the emirate but ran out of steam as her Swiss opponent ran out 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 winner.
It was Halep’s ninth match in just 13 days and she admitted tiredness had caught up with her.
“It was really difficult physically. I was tired,” the world No. 2 said.

Bencic came from a set down to beat the favorite in the last-eight encounter in Dubai. (AFP) 


“After the second set, I felt like I’m getting cramping a little bit. It’s normal. I was sweating a lot.”
While, her fatigue was clear for all to see, Halep was not using it as an excuse, admitting Bencic, who has now beaten her in two of their three matches, was the deserved winner.
“Yeah, she played well. She played very well. In the end, she was a little bit stronger,” the Romanian said.
Having lost in the Qatar final last weekend and failed to make the last-four in Dubai you might think Halep would be disappointed with her Middle East stint. She was, however, far from glum and revealed she is looking forward to landing more titles to add to her collection during the rest of the year.

Cheerio from Halep after her defeat to the Swiss. (AFP) 


“I think were three good weeks. Tough weeks. A lot of tension, a lot of pressure. Also the Fed Cup,” she said.
“I take only positive things. I had great matches. My level is good. Physically also I’m good. But day by day I had to play, so is not easy.
“I’m confident for the next tournaments.”