By: Kofi Owusu Aduonum
Despite racing into a 2-0 first leg win in the final round of qualifiers for the 2011 African Under-17 Championship, Ghana coach Frimpong Manso says the return leg in Senegal is vital.
Manso was part of the backroom staff of the last Black Starlets team that failed to qualify for the 2009 competition hosted by Algeria.
This time round, he finds himself at the helm of affairs, and also in the driving seat, as Ghana holds the lead ahead of the return clash next weekend.
The Black Starlets laboured in the opening half, but with 14 minutes of play remaining, they scored two-quick goals in two minutes, through Hamza Zakari and Joseph Gordon, at the El-Wak Stadium.
Now, Ghana needs, at least a draw, to qualify for the finals of the Championship in Rwanda next year, and erase the pain of the previous qualifying campaign.
Manso, though satisfied with the result, admits that his Black Starlets were sluggish, and that accounted for their rather poor showing in the first half.
“You could see it was a very difficult game in the first half especially, and even in the first ten minutes of the second half.
“I don’t know why, but today [match day], the boys were too sluggish for me, but looking at the conditions and scoring two goals, so it’s not bad,” the Ghanaian coach said after the game last Saturday.
The Senegalese proved tall at the back for the Ghanaian attackers, but the Black Starlets coach believes the win was good for his side, going into the decisive game.
“The result is positive. The players played very well, and they managed to score two goals. The result serves as a perfect security ahead of the second leg, and I’m upbeat we will survive in the return encounter,” Manso said.
Fourteen remaining teams will face off in the final round of qualifiers to see which of the seven teams join host Rwanda for the 8-team African U-17 Championships, from January 7-22, 2011.