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.
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!
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.
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
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.