Jordan Ayew enjoyed a dream return to the Ghana national team on Sunday afternoon as he struck twice in the first half of the Black Stars 2-0 victory over Ethiopia in a 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.
The Crystal Palace striker was handed a start in Addis Ababa, joining Emmanuel Boateng in attack and he rediscovered his fine form as he found the breakthrough with just three minutes on the clock.
The 27-year-old controlled a long pass from defender Harrison Afful before finding the back of the net with a fine strike from close range.
He doubled the lead before the half-hour mark via penalty spot after Emmanuel Boateng was fouled in the box by Ethiopian goalkeeper.
The Black Stars were in cruise control from them on, looking only to manage the game by holding Ethiopia at arm’s length and looking to counter-attack whenever the opportunity arose. The Wayla Antelopes grew in confidence near the end of the first half but were unable to make any real inroads before the interval.
The second half saw Ghana maintain the status quo: they controlled the game and kept any threat from the home side under wraps, but struggled to click into higher gears going forward.
Andre Ayew had the ball in the back of the net with just under 10 minutes of regulation time left to play, but his hopes of a third goal for the team were dashed, with the referee blowing for a clear and obvious foul from the forward on a defender.
In the end, Ghana held out for a comfortable and important victory, though their performance – apart from the opening 25 minutes – left much to be desired.
With CAF yet to make a final decision in regards to Sierra Leone (who have been banned by FIFA and therefore barred from playing the last three rounds of qualifiers) and their status in Group F, the Black Stars’ place at the 2019 finals is not fully confirmed.
But if and when CAF award 3-0 wins to Sierra Leone’s opponents for the three missing games (two of which were against Ghana), Kwesi Appiah’s side will be mathematically be guaranteed a place in the top two of the group, and therefore safely into Cameroon 2019.