Mumbai: Ghana outclassed fellow-African Niger 2-0 to enter the quarter-finals of the Fifa U-17 World Cup. Eric Ayiah converted a penalty moments before the half time whistle and substitute Richard Danso scored in the 90th minute to seal a dominant win at the DY Patil Stadium here on Wednesday.
Ghana, cheered by their travelling fans, created many chances, missed a penalty through Ayiah and could have scored more but some resolute defending and goalkeeping restricted them to two goals. Ghana now meet Mali in the first quarter-final in Guwahati on Saturday. Both last faced off in the African U-17 championship with Mali winning the title.
Niger goalkeeper Khalid Lawali was under pressure from early on in the game and though Niger got things under control for a bit, Ayiah was denied by Lawali as Ghana took over again and never gave back the initiative.
Edmund Arko-Mensah almost gave Ghana the lead after Gabriel Leveh fed him well but Lawali made a diving save in the 25th minute. Ghana were lethal from the wings especially from the right producing probing football. Lawali just tipped over Arko-Mensah’s curling cross aimed at goal.
Just when it seemed the first half would end goalless, Ayiah was given the penalty in stoppage time after he was tripped by Farouk Idrissa inside the box.
Niger who had scored just one goal in the league stages, showed no urgency to score as Ghana forwards swarmed all over them. The game slowed down and too many injuries made it a drab affair.
However, Emmanuel Toku produced a moment of brilliance and unleashed a rasping strike at goal bringing out another top save from Lawali in the 66th minute. Moments later, Gideon Mensah missed a goalmouth chance.
Idrissa made second costly mistake in the 85th minute when he fouled Toku inside the box to concede another penalty but Ayiah was superbly denied by Lawali.
However, Danso made amends with a solo attempt, sending in a powerful 25-yard strike that found the net even after a half save from Lawali. Niger had a chance towards the end but to no avail.
Ghana coach Fabin Samuel admitted the penalty just before the break lifted their spirits. “The penalty was timely, it calmed our nerves and boosted us for the second half.
“We created many chances, but couldn’t convert which is a concern. But it is a work in progress, credit to them for two goals which took us to next stage,” Samuel said.
(Ayiah 45+4 penalty, Danso 90)
(Brenner 11, 56, Antonio 44)