Debutants Madagascar inflicted a 2-1 defeat on Ghana in the African Nations Championship (CHAN) on Sunday.
Black Galaxies, one of the favourites to win the 2022 edition of the tournament for home-based players, got off to a shockingly poor start, losing to Madagascar in Constantine.
Both teams came into the game knowing that a win would put them at the top of Group C because the first group match between Morocco and Sudan did not take place earlier in the day. The defending champions are not in Alegria due to diplomatic tensions between the two North African countries.
Madagascar, playing their first-ever CHAN match, made a strong start and got their reward after only 10 minutes when Koloina Razafidranaivo scored with his second shot inside the box after the first was blocked by Kotoko goalkeeper Danlad Ibrahim.
Ghana were awarded a penalty seconds later, but the decision was correctly overturned by the Video Assistant Referee, leaving the score at one nil.
Ghana struggled for much of the first half, with Malagasy keeping key players Gladson Awako and Daniel Afriyie Barnieh quiet. However, Ghana broke through Madagascar’s defence near the end of the first 45 minutes, with Great Olympics forward Razak Yussif missing a great chance from inside the box.
After the break, Madagascar sat deep, expecting Ghana to attack, but the slippery pitch at Stade Chahid-Hamlaoui made life difficult for the Black Galaxies. They couldn’t easily string passes together. Madagascar, on the other hand, exuded confidence whenever they had the ball.
Madagascar’s second goal came in the 61st minute. Augustine Randolf failed to properly connect the ball as he tried to pass to his goalkeeper Danlad. Tsiry Randriantsiferana capitalised, and his shot deflected off Danlad, who was off his line, and into the net.
Walker was forced to make substitutions after the second goal, including the introduction of Kotoko right-back Augustine Agyapong, who replaced Randolf. The defender made an immediate impact, beating the goalkeeper with a cross-come-shot to cut the deficit in half and set up a frantic finish.
After that stunning goal, the Black Galaxies pressed for an equaliser, spamming crosses into the Madagascar box. They had great chances, one of which fell to Afriyie Barnieh in the closing stages, but he shot straight at the onrushing goalkeeper before a rebound went wide, as Ghana got off to a losing start in Algeria.
Annor Walker’s men will have to respond against Sudan on Thursday. If they lose, they are out of the tournament.