Ghana edge Uganda by Ayew penalty

PORT-GENTIL, Gabon: Ghana failed to impress but got the job done in their opening match of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations on Tuesday with a 1-0 win over Uganda in Group D, while Egypt and Mali played a goalless draw.
West Ham’s Andre Ayew converted a 32nd-minute penalty for Ghana as the 27-year-old is playing in his fifth continental championship. And the 2015 runners-up made it hold up. “The first half was pretty good. We kept the ball and played our game and had chances. But in the second half we did not do what was necessary with the quality we have. We should have got the second goal against this team,” said Ayew, who added that the heat in Gabon was a factor.
“It’s not easy, but after two or three matches we will be used to it. The first matches are always difficult. Many players are tired but the game is played with the mind. And we knew how to be solid.”
The Black Stars are shooting for their fifth Afcon title — but their first since 1982. Ghana have reached the title game three times since then.
Uganda meanwhile are making their first appearance in the tournament since 1978, when they finished second to Ghana.
Ghana threatened for the first time just before the 20-minute mark as Asamoah Gyan’s header went just wide left. The Black Stars captain was close again just a minute later, again sending a nodded shot left from a good position in the box.
Uganda keeper Denis Onyango needed a strong save after 29 minutes to keep his clean sheet, stopping Ayew’s shot on the counter attack.
But Onyango was helpless in the 32nd minute as Ayew put Ghana ahead 1-0 on a penalty shot down the middle after Isaac Isinde had pulled down Gyan in the area.
Uganda were not shaken by the goal and had a good chance two minutes before the break but Farouk Miya’s blast on the counter hit only the right side netting.
The Cranes had three more chances in a five-minute stretch with Tony Mawejje hitting wide left in the 63rd and Joseph Ochaya also going wide left before Geofrey Massa’s free kick blast sailed just over the bar in the 68th minute.
Uganda remained the more dangerous team with more pressure on the Ghana defence. But the Black Stars nearly grabbed the insurance goal four minutes from time but Onyango made a great save on Christian Atsu’s blast.
In the later Group D match, Egypt and Mali played to a 0-0 draw and both have one point after the last game in the first round of matches in the four groups.
Mali threatened Egypt’s goal first in the 13th minute as Moussa Marega’s cross from the left side went untouched and forced Egypt keeper Ahmed El Shenawy to tip the ball around his post.
Shenawy was forced out of the game in the 25th minute and coming on was Essam El Hadary, who broke a record by becoming the oldest man to ever play at the Afcon at 44 years and 2 days.
The Egyptians nearly jumped ahead just a minute later as Mohamed Elneny’s long range blast sailed just over the bar.
The Afcon continues on Wednesday with the second round-robin games in Group A with hosts Gabon facing Burkina Faso and Cameroon playing Guinea-Bissau. — DPA