Ghana's Mensah has dramatic start to tournament

25 January 2012 04:16

Ghana captain John Mensah has had a dramatic start to the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations -- scoring the only goal in Tuesday's defeat of Botswana before getting sent off, and then suffering a hamstring injury.

Mensah picked up a two-match ban for his second-half red card, but as it transpired, the Lyon centre-back would have probably been forced to sit out the remaining two group games anyway with the injury.

Mensah was absent from his team?s training session on Wednesday morning in Ngouni, about 40 kilometres from Franceville.

Ghana team doctor Percy Annan disclosed the pivotal Black Stars player has pains in his lower left thigh and tests will be conducted to ascertain the severity of the injury he picked up in the opening 1-0 win.

"We will do a scan at the hospital to know how serious this injury is," said Annan.

Mensah earned the dubious honour of becoming the first player at the 2012 competition to receive a red card.

He was given his marching orders in the 65th minute for a professional foul on Botswana striker Jerome Ramatlhakwana, who was clear on goal.

Mensah also saw red in the quarter-final of the 2008 Nations Cup in Ghana, when he fouled the goal-bound Peter Odemwingie of Nigeria.

Before news of the injury emerged, Mensah had spoken of his delight at bagging the three points for 2010 finalists Ghana with the only goal of the game.

His decisive intervention came in the 24th minute when he helped in a corner from the left taken by Emmanuel Agyemang Badu.

"I'm happy we won with my goal. We had to win to boost our confidence," Mensah said after the Group D clash.

"I thank God for my first goal at the Nations Cup, unfortunately I also got a red card. But we have a good bench and so we have a lot of players who can replace me in the two games I will miss."

Ghana coach Goran Stevanovic equally lamented the absence of his first-choice central defender for the other Group D matches against Mali and Guinea.

"I'm worried because Mensah is very difficult to replace," he said. "He played well against Botswana but then got sent off.

"But while we were training in South Africa, I told the players that I need every one of them for this competition and so I have 20 other players who could replace him and we will be ready for Mali."

Against Botswana, Mensah played alongside Rennes defender John Boye, who was making his Nations Cup debut and was picked as the man of the match by the Confederation of African Football (CAF).

Another young centre-back, Jonathan Mensah, who was dropped for Boye against Botswana, is most likely to replace John Mensah on Saturday against Mali.

Hoffenheim ace Issac Vorsah, who is the usual partner of John Mensah in the Black Stars back four, will also miss the match against Mali as he remains suspended due to his two-match ban for a red card in the final qualifier in Sudan in October.

Stevanovic reflected: "We controlled the game until the red card for Mensah. We created some chances but they closed down the game with 10 men behind the ball.

"All the same, it was very important that we won our first game of a tournament that has already produced some surprises."

Victory against Mali would all but assure Ghana of a place in the last eight.

Source: AFP

World Cup Group G

Belgium 1 0 0 3 3
England 1 0 0 1 3
Tunisa 0 0 1 -1 0
Panama 0 0 1 -3 0
Last updated : 14:57