Ten-man Ghana had to share the spoils with Benin in the second Group F match of the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations, played at the Ismailia Stadium on Tuesday.
Though Benin scored first through Mickael Pote in the second minute – in what is so far the fastest goal of the tournament – the Stars went into the break leading 2-1 after the Ayew brothers, Andre and Jordan, found the back of the Beninois net.
But Benin took advantage of the Stars’ numerical shortage – following a second Yellow Card to John Boye – to equalise, sharing the points with the four-time champions at the end of the game.
The two sides went into the game, seeking a win to go level with Cameroon on the standings after the champions beat Guinea-Bissau 2-0 earlier in the day.
The Squirrels made their determination to win known very early in the game after they broke the Stars’ midfield.
Turkey-based Pote went ahead of his marker, Lumor Agbenyenu, to control a searching ball from the midfield, putting it past Maritzburg United’s Richard Ofori.
But the 2015 losing finalists responded a few minutes later after Jordan Ayew’s misdirected cross found the feet of brother Dede Ayew, whose strike took a slight deflection to beat Malatyaspor’s Fabien Farnolle.
That goal is Ayew’s ninth in the history of the tournament, having begun scoring in 2010 with a spectacular header against Burkina Faso in Angola.
Ghana’s coach James Kwesi Appiah had to be forced to make an early substitution after Thomas Agyepong went down with a torn ligament.
Playing his first Nations Cup for the four-time champions, a disappointed Agyepong had to be replaced by another newcomer Samuel Owusu in the 35th minute.
The Stars appeared to be jittery as defender Boye received a Yellow Card from Tunisian referee Youssef Essrayri after he went for his man having lost control of a ball he picked from his own half.
One of the pre-tournament favourites, the Stars found their rhythm as Kasim Nuhu’s searching cross was spurned by the Beninois defender Olivier Verdon.
A waiting Jordan Ayew perfectly controlled the ball and hit it into the top-left corner of Farnolle’s goal.
The Stars, as a result, went into the break with their heads held high, coming from an early goal to lead 2-1.
Starting the second half the same way they started the first, Benin’s feistiness rather resulted in a first-minute Yellow Card to Yeovil Town’s Sessi D’Almeida.
Eight minutes later, referee Essrayri issued his third Yellow Card of the game to Boye, who was penalised for delay after leaving a free kick to Ofori.
The Tunisian appeared to have issued the card to a wrong person as he had no option than to show the Metz defender the Red Card, the first in the 32nd edition of the Africa Cup of Nation.
With a numerical disadvantage, Coach Appiah had to withdraw substitute Samuel Owusu and bring on centre-back Jonathan Mensah.
The Squirrels pushed forward and in the 62nd minute forced an infringement from Mubarak Wakaso 20 yards out.
Two quick substitutions from Michel Dussuyer before the kick may have spurred on his charges.
Though Ofori put up a superb save of the free-kick, he was beaten by the resultant corner kick.
The Ghanaian goalkeeper palmed the freekick over the goal line but he failed to keep his front guard in check as Nuhu failed to mark Pote, who skillfully back-heeled the ball into the net for his second goal of the match.
The Stars pushed for another lead but it failed.
Atletico Madrid Thomas Partey’s powerful free-kick in the 70th minute was squarely palmed away by Farnolle.
As the Turkey-based goalie prevented the ball from entering, his strikers also pushed for a third goal.
Nuhu was at the receiving end of the pressure as he received the fifth card of the game.
The match, nonetheless, ended 2-2, the third draw of the tournament so far.
Crystal Palace’s Jordan Ayew was named Man of the Match.
Next Group F matches
Ghana will face title holders Cameroon next – precisely on Saturday – while Benin face Guinea-Bissau on that same day.
As it stands after the first round of matches, Cameroon lead the group with three points with Ghana and Benin on a point apiece.
Guinea-Bissau are bottom without a point yet.
Group F Standing
- Cameroon (3pts)
- Benin (1pt)
- Ghana (1pt)
- Guinea-Bissau (0)
By Emmanuel Kwame Amoh|3news.com|Ghana