Ghana 2-2 Benin: Africa Cup of Nations 2019 – as it happened

Benin fought back to claim a point against 10-men Black Stars

Full-time: Ghana 2-2 Benin

The spoils are shared after a gripping contest that both sides will feel they could have won. Ghana’s chances of doing so were hampered by the extrmeley harsh dismissal of John Boye in the second half, after which Benin drew level and created chances to claim their first ever win in the tournament. In the end, though, they have to make do with a draw, which is more than they were expected to get before kickoff. Both countries will fanacy their chances of progressing. The Squirrels are on the march! And the Black Stars showed enough quality going forward to suggest they are contenders for outright glory, although their defence will have to shape up a lot.

Ghana players applaud their fans after the match.
Ghana players applaud their fans after the match. Photograph: Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters

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90+2 min: Dossou sends over a delightful cross from the right. Mounie times his run to perfection an sends a poewrful header ... over the bar from seven yards!

90 min: Mounié booked for reasons that are not apparent.

Ghana substitution: Acquah on, Andrew Ayew off. Ghana will take a point.

88 min: Djigla romps down the left again, then picks outAdeoiti, who feeds Pote at the edge of the box. Ghana converge on him quickly enough to prevent him from getting off a shot, so he recycles it . And the move ends with the ball being ballooned over the bar from miles out.

87 min: Benin work Digla into space down the left. Ghana reple his cross. But Benin regain it and put the pressure right back on. They want a winner against the 10 men...

85 min: Digla’s putting himself about to great effect up front, seriously perturbing the Ghanaian defence.

83 min: Djigla’s first touch is a reasonable shot from 20 yards, though it would have taken awfully negligent goalkeeping to reach the net.

Benin substitution: Djigla on, Soukou off.

80 min: Wakaso is shoved to the ground in the centre circle after skipping past Mama. He gets the freekick but angrily asks the ref why no card has been shown, counting out the number of times he has been fouled like that. True enough, the ref has been o model of inconsistency, pernickety enough to send off Boye for not taking a freekick quickly enough but lenient enough to allow serial foulers to escape bookings.

78 min: Dossou slams into Yiadom by the right-hand touchline, practically demanding to have a freekick given against him. It’s delivered towards the back post, but Benin clear without ado.

76 min: Wakaso wins possession with terrific tackle in midfield. But then Ghana give it away, and Adams earns a booking for pulling down Mounié as the Huddersfield striker threatened to run away from him.

74 min: With his teammates waiting in the middle for a precise delivery, Partey bungles a freekick, scooping it high and wide.

73 min: Adenon whacks the ball to safety as Atsu tried to connect with a nice flipped pass oer the top of the Beninese defence. Ghana are coming on strong here, making light of their numerical deficit.

71 min: Wow! Partey lets fly with a rocket of a freekick from way out - 25 yards and over to the left - and Farnolle has to fling himself across goal to make a fine save. He then berates his defenders for not erecting a wall but perhaps if they had doen so, the keeper would not have had such a good view of the incoming ball.

69 min: Dossou makes good ground down the left and then goes for goal from 20 yards. But it bobbled just before he struck and, as a result, took off towards the sky.

67 min: Wonderful, skillful play by Ghana! Nifty passing and moving in the box before Andre Ayew is thwarted by a heroic last-gasp tackle.

66 min: A long throw-in from the right bounces around the Benin box before Atsu gets it under control and tries to bang it goalward with a spectacular overhead kick. A fine effort, but just wide!

GOAL! Ghana 2-2 Benin (Poté 64)

The Squirrels are level! They caught out Ghana with a short corner and then drove a low cross into the box. Poté turned it goalwards from six yards and wheeled away in celebration. Now, can Benin go on and get their first ever victory in the Africa Cup of Nations? Or can Ghana’s 10-men fight back?

Ghana’s goalkeeper Richard Ofori (left) concedes a goal.
Ghana’s goalkeeper Richard Ofori (left) concedes a second goal, again scored by Mickael Pote. Photograph: Ozan Köse/AFP/Getty Images
Benin’s forward Mickael Pote (second right) celebrates his second goal.
Pote (second right) celebrates his second goal. Photograph: Ozan Köse/AFP/Getty Images

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63 min: Soukou curls a sweet freekick over the wall, and Ofori punches away for a corner.

Benin substitutions: Mama and Dossou on, Adilehou and D’Almeida off. Benin are going for it!

61 min: Wakaso can’t believe he’s punished for brining down Mounié, but he is. Benin have a freekick in a dangerous position, about 23 yards out, a little to the left of the D.

Ghana substitution: Mensah on, Owusu off. So the first-half substitute is hauled back off because Ghana have to adjust to the loss of Boye.

58 min: Ghana cut through down the right flank with a sharp one-two between Yiadom and Owusu, but then Yiadom’s control lets him down and the ball runs out of play.

58 min: Now, can Benin make the extra man pay. Will Dussuyer make a tactical switch to try to get more support up to the forlorn Mounié?

RED CARD! Boye sent off

Boye is shown a second yellow card for time-wasting. It’s an absurd decision! He was shaping up to take a freekick from inside his own half and then got a shout from his goalkeeper to leave it, so he jogged forward to let the keeper take it. But the ref reckoned they were up to trickery so strode forward and issued a second booking! That punishment sure didn’t fit the so-called crime. The ball was dead, th ref could easily add on the few seconds he thought were being wasted.

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52 min: Mounié gets up well to nod down a cross from the right to Poté near the penalty spot. Boye makes an important block. Good pressure from the Squirrels though ...

50 min: Barazé lumps over a freekick from the right. Poté, making regular bursts from midfield, has managed to get on the end of most deliveries and this stime is no exception. But his header from 18 yards sails over.

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48 min: Andrew Ayew is up on his feet and trying to run off his ankle pain. Let’s hope he succeeds because he’s played very well so far, on top of scoring Ghana’s first goal. And he seems to have an uncanny understanding with Ghana’s central striker...

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47 min: D’Almeida is shown a deserved yellow card for pulling down Partey before falling awkwardly on to the ankle of Andre Ayew, who seems to be in a lot of pain. Ghana’s players look concerned.

46 min: No changes during the break. Can Benin start the second half as powerfully as they began the first?

“The Squirrels has to be the best nickname in international football,” cheers Oliver Sampson. “What inspired them to choose that? Are Beninese squirrels considered to be particularly menacing?” Funnily enough, at the beginning of these qualifiers the Beninese Football Federation said they were going to change the nickname and invited people to suggest a better one. Mounié, for instance, proposed ‘The Pythons” because they have a huge place in Beninese culture. In the end, though, Benin decided to stick with the Squirrels. I asked Mr Mounié how they got it in the first place and he said that the version he was given was that back when the national team were first starting out and began thinking of a nickname, they went for a training session and there happened to be a load of squirrles sitting on the pitch. It was a sign. I’m just glad that the team I used to play for didn’t apply a similar policy, otherwise we would have been known as the Cowpats.

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Half-time: Ghana 2-1 Benin

After a sluggish start that vibrant Benin punished to the max, the Black Stars have stormed back in encouraging style. They deserve their lead but have plenty of work to do yet because Benin have shown they can be dangerous. It’s been an intense an highy entertaining game so far. More please!

43 min: Adams blocks an Adeoti run with the most blatant bodycheck you’ll ever see. He escapes a booking and, even better, Benin waste the freekick.

41 min: Adams fizzes a low pass from the halfway to Jordan Ayew, who spins past the slightly perplexed Verdon and then rams the ball into the top corner with his right foot from 18 yards.

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Ghana 2-1 Benin (J Ayew 41)

What a stonking finish by Jordan Ayew!

Ghana’s Jordan Ayew celebrates scoring their second goal.
Ghana’s Jordan Ayew celebrates scoring their second goal. Photograph: Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters

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40 min: Owusu tires to make an immediate impact. Receiving the ball wide on the left, he accelerates in midfield and an unloads a reasonable drive. It whistles wide.

39 min: Agbenyenu is forced into the concession of a corner. Ghana have not defended these well so far. But Andrew Ayew does the business this tsime, nutting it to safety at the near post.

37 min: Boye overruns the ball in midfield and then lunges at it in desperation and ends up clonking D’Almeida. He cops the inevitable yellow card.

Ghana substitution: Owusu on, Ageypong off, at last.

34 min: Mounié is upended in midfield by Agyepong, who may have resorted to that just to make play stop so he can be replaced. But Benin take a quick freekick and on he must go.

32 min: Ghana are enjoying the lion’s share of possession now, and Benin have filed back into a 5-4-1 in which Mounie is very isolated up front. A feeling he is sadly accustomed to. Meanwhile, Ghana still haven’t made their substitution. It’s not clear why, because Owusu is ready to come on and Agyepong seems ready to come off.

30 min: Agyepong seems to be in pain. He signals to the bench, seemingly asking to be replaced. Owusu is stripped and ready but for some reason play is allowed to continue.

28 min: Andre Ayew skedaddles into the left-hand side of the box and tries to pick out his brother in the middle, but Adilehou won’t allow it.

25 min: Adeoti spreads the play with a well-flighted ball to the right, Poté takes it down deftly but then sends his cross too close to the keeper.

24 min: A snappy bit of interplay by Ghana takes them from one side of the pitch to the other and then to the brink of the BEnin box, whereupon it breaks down. Still, an encouraging bit of action for the Black Stars, who are piecing together some zippy moves.

22 min: Soukou’s corner is allowed to run right across the edge of the six-yard box. Ghana are very lucky that no attack can get a touch, because their defender seemed oddly nonplussed. They’ve looked very shaky at the back so far.

20 min: Soukou delivers a dangerous freekick from the left. Boye leaps high to nod out for a corner under pressure.

19 min: Imoru bangs over a dangerous cross from the left. Poté meets it with a volley from 15 yards. His connection isn’t quite right, and that allows the keeper to make a save.

17 min: Lovely work by Atsu after receiving a short corner. He dropped his shoulder and zoomed past the full-back in the manner of a motorcylist taking a corner (or a bit like Eden Hazard, if you prefer), and then delivered a useful cross. Benin dealt with it well.

15 min: Atsu burts into the box and goes down in the vicinity of a tackle by Imoru, who made no contact with him whatsoever. The referee stares at the attacker in a way as if daring him to try to claim a penalty. Wisely, Atsu doesn’t.

14 min: Agyepong careers down the left wing before winning a corner. It’s flicked on at the near post ... and hits the referee! Benin’s grateful defence smack it clear.

13 min: Partey tries to dink a ball over the top of the Beninese defence for Jordan Ayew to chase. But he sends it too long.

12 min: This has been a cracking contest so far, played with more intensity than any other in the tournament so far (and it has been a good tournament so far). Benin’s bold start challenged Ghana to show their quality and they’re rising to that challenge.

GOAL! Ghaan 1-1 Benin (A Ayew 9)

From their first attack the Black Stars draw level! Benin will be miffed at how easily Jordan Ayew was allowed to latch on to a simple ball over the top by Adams. Then the forward pulled the ball back to his brother, who sized up a defender before shuffling quickly to his left and firing a low shot beyond the keeper from 15 yards, courtesy of an important deflection.

Andre Ayew fires in Ghana’s equaliser.
Andre Ayew fires in Ghana’s equaliser. Photograph: Ozan Köse/AFP/Getty Images
Ghana’s Andre Ayew celebrates scoring their equaliser.
Andre Ayew celebrates his goal. Photograph: Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters

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7 min: Ghana are trying to compose themelves by hogging possession but Benin are making it difficult. They’re playing with real intensity.

4 min: Partey has the shirt almsot literally torn off his back by Mounié as the striker tries to win the ball back in midfield. It wasn’t particularly violent - those shirtsmsut be very flimsy - and it shows how determined Benin are to hold on to their lead. Indeed, the way they’ve startaed they might increase it ... Ghana are in lots of bother here.

GOAL! Ghana 0-1 Benin (Poté 2)

What a start for the migthy Squirrels! They tore into their illustrious opponents from the beginning and have instant reward! Poté hared on to a clever through ball from midfield, racing past the high Ghanain defence. Agbenyenu seemed to have recovered sufficiently to stop him but Poté turned inside the defender and fired below the advancing keeper!

Benin’s forward Mickael Pote (right) tucks the ball away to open the scoring.
Benin’s forward Mickael Pote (right) tucks the ball away to open the scoring. Photograph: Ozan Köse/AFP/Getty Images
Benin’s forward Mickael Pote (left) celebrates his goal with teammates in front of their happy fans.
Pote (left) celebrates his goal with teammates in front of their happy fans. Photograph: Ozan Köse/AFP/Getty Images

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1 min: We have kickoff! The Black Stars get this party started.

The smattering of fans who have turned up in the Ismaila stadium are supporting their countries with festive fervour. “Valiant Squirrels, make us dream!” exhorts one banner among the Benin faithful.

Steve Mounié may not have had an especially happy season with Huddersfield last term – after a fine first one – but he has been in strong recent form for his country and has spoken to the Guardian of his eagerness to create history with them here. If you want an idea of how much playing for Benin means to him, you could ask the pupils of South Crossland primary school in Huddersfield. When some of them were asked to do a project on Benin last year, they decided to write to Mounié and ask him for information. He replied with a lovely two-page letter full of warmth, sincerity and tips. He began: “I’ve read every single letter you wrote me. I was very proud to know that in England some kids are learning about my country. I was very glad and I would like to thank you to make me live this moment with you.”

“In your letters you asked me some questions,” he continued. “ To make it easy for me I will answer by telling you my life story and the history of my country and what it is like in the present day.” He went to explain that he was born in the town of Parakou but moved to France with his parents when he was four years old (“The only thing I can remember [about his life in Benin before that] is the name of my primary school there, which was ‘Hibiscus’ – the name of a very beautiful red flower you can find in Benin.”); he gave details about the Benin kingdom of yore (“In Benin we had some big kings … the best known of them was the King Béhanzin. He was king of Dahomey (present-day Benin) from 1890 to 1894. He was known because he fought against the coloniser and he fought with bravery and prevented Dahomey from being as colonised as other kingdoms. Unfortunately in 1892 he lost against France and from that France looted some royal artefacts. Those are artefacts are now in the ‘Quai Branly’ museum in Paris. Some of the artefacts you have learned about have been looted by England as well and they are actually in the British museum in London.”).

He concluded by thanking the children again for their interest, wishing them the best in their futures “I hope you find a passion that you can make a job”) and that they get to visit Benin one day (“It’s a very amazing place to visit and I hope some of you will be able to go once in your life”). The children loved his reply.

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Teams:

Ghana: Ofori; Yiadom, Agbeyenu, Boye, Adams; Wakaso, Partey , Agyepong, Atsu; A Ayew, J Ayew

Benin: Farnolle; Baraze, Adilehou, Adenon, Verdon, Imorou; Poté, D’Almeida, Adeoti, Soukou; Mounié

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Preamble

Hello and welcome the long-awaited appearances in Afcon 2019 of Ghana and Benin. As ever, the Black Stars arrive with high hopes and, given the quality in their ranks, there has been much talk of this being a prime opportunity for them to end their 37-year wait to regain the continental crowd that they have held four times. With Tomas Partey and Christian Atsu in a midfield that will aim to provide regular service to the Ayew brothers, Ghana have useful firepower. And if things don’t click, they can call on Asamoah Gyan, who craves an opportunity to become the first man to score in no fewer than seven of these tournaments.

Benin meanwhile, have not even appeared in that many Afcons (this is the fourth time they’ve reached their continent’s showpiece) and they have never won a match at it. That’s a fact the Squirrels aim to change. They beat Algeria and Togo in the qualifiers so they’re not to be under-estimated. If a defence led by Olivier Verdon can keep the Black Stars at bay, and if Steve Mounié is in form up front, then they have the capacity to spring surprise even without the suspended, Stéphane Sessegnon.