The four-time champions Ghana were knocked out of the Africa Cup of Nations after crashing 3-2 against the Minnows Comoros in Group C on Tuesday in Garoua. This came when Morocco twice came behind to make a 2-2 draw against Gabon in Yaounde on Tuesday and finished top of the group.
El Fardou Ben Mohamed scored the first ever goal for the Comoros in the continental final before Ahmed Mogni added a second just after the hour mark. Goals from Richmond Boakye and Alexander Djiku leveled the match for Ghana, but Mogni took a winner for the small island nation with five minutes left.
It is the first time in their history that Ghana have failed to win at least one pool match after making 22 previous visits in the final, their cause did not help in Garoua by playing for 65 minutes with 10 men after a hard early red card for the leading striker Dede Ayew.
Ghana is the four-time winner of the tournament, though not since 1982, and most recently reached the final in 2015.
Their autopsies of the campaign will not only focus on what happened on the pitch, but also the atmosphere and environment around the team that seemed toxic from the start of the competition.
The Comoros took an early lead when Ben Mohamed drilled the ball low into the bottom corner of the goal from the edge of the box, before Ghana were reduced to 10 men after 25 minutes in what appeared to be a tough conversation.
Kamaldeen Suleymana’s shot was spilled by Comorian goalkeeper Ben Salith Boina, who was caught by Ayew’s outstretched boot as both went after the loose ball.
There is no doubt that the striker tried to score, and the Malian referee Boubou Traore did not seem to think about it until the video assistant got a look at the plan page screen. He then changed his mind.
Mogni took a second for the Comoros, but Ghana gave themselves hope by pulling the match back to 2-2.
Boakye’s meandering corner from a corner found its way into the net, before Djiku scored on the back post from another set piece.
But as they advanced in search of a winner, Ghana were always vulnerable in the back and Mogni was able to make a famous winner for the Comoros up close.
Morocco, Senegal draw to the top groups Morocco finished Group C with seven points, two points ahead of second-placed Gabon, when Achraf Hakimi struck a fantastic free kick six minutes from the end to save them from an upset loss to Gabon that had eight players excluded due to Covid infections, including Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang talisman.
Jim Allevinah’s goal gave Gabon the lead at the break but Sofiane Boufal equalized with a penalty in the 75th minute, only for Aaron Boupendza to put Gabon back in the lead for the final 10 minutes.
>> As it happened: Malawi hold uninspired Senegal to a goalless draw
Meanwhile in Group B, Senegal was held 0-0 by minnows Malawi in Bafoussam on Tuesday despite the return of stars Edouard Mendy, Kalidou Koulibaly and Idrissa Gueye, but still won Group B in the Africa Cup of Nations.
On a night of surprises, Guinea fell 2-1 to already knocked out Zimbabwe in Yaounde and reached the quarterfinals as second thanks to a better head-to-head record than Malawi.
Brave Malawi finished third and will have to wait until Thursday to see if they will be among the top four third-placed teams and qualify for the second round.
Senegal came to the Africa Cup of Nations as one of the favorites but have only won once and only scored once – from a Sadio Mane penalty – in three matches.
( Jowharwith REUTERS and AFP)