English referee Tom Singleton stole the limelight in tonight’s Group C match when he pointed to the penalty spot twice for Saudi Arabia in the final five minutes, but Ghana held their nerve and ran out 2-1 winners in a fiesty affair in St. Petersburg.
Saudi Arabia had the better of the opening exchanges, hitting the underside of the crossbar after eighteen minutes when Abdullah Alhafith’s downward header at a corner bounced up off the turf and hit the woodwork before being spooned over the top during the following scramble.
Five minutes later, Saudi Arabia had another gilt-edged chance when centre-back Abdulellah Majraski found himself in the final third and was put clean-through by Majed Al-Dosari, but his fierce drive flashed inches wide.
Ten minutes before the break, Ghana took the lead against the run of play. Samuel Inkoom’s switched the ball from the right to the opposite flank where Waris Majeed had escaped the attention of the Saudi defence. He had time to come inside and drill a low shot home from the edge of the box.
The goal lifted Ghana and they had the lion’s share of possession and chances for the next half-hour. In the 66th minute Kojo Asamoah headed a corner against the bar and Isaac Vorsah missed a golden opportunity to make it two-nil when he screwed an effort wide in the scramble.
On 71 minutes, they found a second. David Addy chipped a long ball forwards to the penalty arc for Uriah Asante who took a touch to bring the ball down before smashing a shot into the top right past Hussein Minae.
In the final five minutes, controversy struck. Hattan Autef was adjudged to have cleanly won the ball and with the Ghana defence expecting a foul he played it into Ipswich striker Mohammed Al-Sahlawi who was clattered by Jonathan Mensah inside the box, and Singleton pointed to the spot.
Al-Sahlawi stepped-up to take it himself, sending it to Larsen’s left but the Ghanaian ‘keeper dived the same way and pushed it round the post with a fine save. The resulting corner was only half-cleared and as Al-Dosari went for a header, he was barged in the back by Kevin-Prince Boateng.
Singleton pointed to the spot a second time, and Bader Al-Mubarak drilled the penalty into the bottom right to pull a goal back for Saudi Arabia. The remaining four minutes and lengthy stoppage time saw sides exchange bookings, but Ghana held on for the win.
On Friday, Ghana face Italy while Saudi Arabia play Wales.
FIFA WORLD CUP: GROUP C GHANA 2-1 SAUDI ARABIA Majeed 36 Al-Mubarak 86 pen Asante 71 (Al-Sahlawi m/pen 85) Inkoom Al-Dosari Boateng Al-Subiani
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