Nations Cup: Ghana start with 1-0 victory over Botswana

By Stephen FottrellBBC Sport
Botswana's Moemedi Moathlaping (R) is tackled by Ghana's Samuel Inkoom
Ghana enjoyed much of the possession, but had to settle for a tight victory

Ghana got their Africa Cup of Nations campaign off to a winning start with a tight 1-0 victory over Botswana.

Captain John Mensah put the Black Stars ahead in the first half, burying an in-swinging corner from close range.

But the skipper earned himself a red card, bringing down Jerome Ramatlhakwane, with the Zebras striker through on goal.

Ghana enjoyed much of the possession, but had to settle for a narrow win after Mensah's second-half dismissal.

The Black Stars started comfortably enough, but Botswana immediately showed on their Nations Cup debut that they were not there to be overrun, confining Ghana to midfield.

Ghana pressed, however, seeking to make their early possession count.

And they duly delivered on 25 minutes when the Botswana defence let down their guard and allowed Mensah to slot home in front of goal, after a good flick-on from Asamoah Gyan.

The Ghanaians kept up the pressure after going ahead, but Botswana quickly rediscovered their composure to repel attacks from Gyan and Jordan Ayew.

Botswana battled hard to win more possession in the second half, with Penyo Mongala and Moemedi Moatlhaping looking lively.

Moatlhaping was unlucky not to see his header find the net, after nodding across goal, in Botswana's best chance of the match.

And they broke through well in the 66th minute, splitting the Ghanaian defence and forcing Mensah to make a crude tackle on Ramatlhakwane to prevent an equaliser, for which the captain received a straight red card.

Ghana showed the experience in their ranks, however, as they managed to withhold Botswana's pressure after the sending-off.

Mongala sprinted in from the left and shot across Adam Kwarasey's goal, with the young keeper parrying away.

But the Black Stars held out well and go into their second match with Mali with three valuable points.

Botswana captain Diphetogo 'Dipsy' Selolwane, who was suspended for the match, says his team will learn from their first Nations Cup outing.

"The boys really tried," Selolwane told the BBC after the game.

"Ghana showed their class and professionalism - when they really needed to step up, they did.

"It's a learning curve for us but it's important that we came out and tried."