First victory for Africa as Black Stars dazzle


Ghana’s hopes of reaching the World Cup second round received a huge boost at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria yesterday as they beat Serbia 1-0 in their opening Group D match.
An 85th-minute penalty by Asamoah Gyan was enough to take the three points after it was awarded by Argentinian referee Hector Baldassi for a handball against Zdravko Kuzmanovic.
Serbia, who lost all three matches in 2006 under the banner of Serbia and Montenegro, had been up against it when Aleksandar Lukovic was sent-off for a second bookable offence in the 74th minute.
What few chances there were in the game largely came from dead ball situations.
Manchester United defender Nemanja Vidic and Serbia captain Dejan Stankovic combined to chop down the rampaging Prince Tagoe but Gyan fired the 25 yard free-kick over the bar on four minutes.
On the quarter-hour mark, Nikola Zigic almost turned a driven Kwadwo Asamoah cross into his own net before the Udinese wide-man then teed up centre-back John Mensah from a free-kick but the Sunderland centre-back headed over.
Gyan was then barely an inch away from converting an inswinging Kevin-Prince Boateng cross from six yards before Serbia’s Aleksandar Kolarov curled a free-kick just over.
In another match played early yesterday, a dreadful mistake by Algeria goalkeeper Faouzi Chaouchi handed Slovenia a 1-0 victory in their opening World Cup Group C match.
Chaouchi fumbled a harmless looking 79th minute shot from Slovenia captain Robert Koren, allowing the ball to squirt through his arms into the bottom left hand corner of his net.
Algeria had been reduced to 10 men when substitute Abdelkader Ghezzal was sent off in the 73rd for handball having already been booked. He was only on the pitch for 15 minutes.
It was Slovenia’s first win at a World Cup after their only previous appearance, in 2002, ended in three defeats.
They top Group C with three points, two ahead of England and the United States, who drew 1-1 in Rustenburg on Saturday.
The Algerians had been marginally the better the side in a lacklustre encounter until then, with the bleach-blonde Hassan Yebda bossing their midfield.
But they created few chances with their best opening having come as early as the third minute through a Nadir Belhadj free kick which Samir Handanovic tipped over the bar.
At the other end, Slovenia created little of note until just before the break when a rasping left foot strike from midfielder Valter Birsa forced an acrobatic save from Chaouchi.
Both teams appeared to struggle with the high bouncing World Cup ball and time after time they over-hit their passes with the ball running harmlessly out of play.
England’s draw with the U.S. in the group’s opening match also contained a goalkeeping error, with England’s Robert Green producing a howler to gift the Americans their equaliser.