Zimbabwe foiled by Ghana's new Pele
The eldest son of legend Abedi 'Pele' Ayew rescued Ghana in a 2-2 draw with Zimbabwe as surprise results continued at the African Championship of Nations. Zambia stunned the host Ivorians 3-0 in the opening match on Sunday and another shock seemed on the cards in Bouake as Group B minnows Zimbabwe scored twice against top seeds Ghana.
But midfielder Ibrahim Ayew, whose father was voted African Footballer of the Year and helped French club Marseille win the UEFA Champions League, salvaged a point with goals either side of half-time in the central Ivorian city.
So a match expected to be among the most one-sided with Zimbabwe missing six unavailable stars turned into a thriller as the first edition of a tournament restricted to home-based footballers provides endless drama. Ghana became favourites to win the eight-team Nations Championship on the strength of an impressive qualification record, topped by coming from two goals behind to defeat Nigeria 3-2 in Accra.
However, if Bouake spectators thought a Zimbabwe team that arrived late in west Africa were lambs awaiting slaughter, they soon had other ideas. It took the appropriately nicknamed 'Warriors' just five minutes to go in front against the run of play as midfielder Ovidy Karuru connected with a cross and his header left goalkeeper Philemon MacCarthy stranded.
Ayew was a villain before he became a hero and his careless back pass to the goalkeeper was intercepted by striker Philip Marufu and the team given no chance found themselves two goals ahead on 36 minutes. The Ghanaian began compensating for his blunder one minute before half-time at the 25,000-seat Peace Stadium in the textile city when he reduced arrears from a goalmouth scramble.
Pretty it certainly was not, but the goal offered the Black Stars hope and midway through the second half Ayew levelled with a shot that flew into the net off the hands of goalkeeper Willard Manyatera. Ghana were reduced to ten men five minutes from full-time when Ofosu Appiah, one of seven stars from the famous Asante Kotoko club in the squad, got his marching orders after a second caution.
Marufu narrowly missed the target in the dying minutes, leaving the crowd hoping for more thrills when DR Congo face Libya in the second part of a double-header.