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FIFA U-17 World Cup: Ayo Akinola helps USA close in on knockouts with Ghana win

Ayo Akinola scored a crucial goal as USA defeated Ghana 1-0 in the FIFA U-17 World Cup clash as they closed in on the knockout stages of the tournament. With this win, USA are on top of the group while Ghana will need to beat India to reach the next round.

fifa u17 world cup 2017 Updated: Oct 09, 2017 20:42 IST
Sayan Ghosh
Sayan Ghosh
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
FIFA U-17 World Cup,FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017,United States of America football team
Ayo Akinola scored a crucial goal as USA closed in on a spot in the next round with a 1-0 win over Ghana in the FIFA U-17 World Cup.(AP)

Substitute Ayo Akinola’s strike pushed USA towards booking their spot in the FIFA U-17 World Cup knockout stages after they defeated Ghana 1-0 to notch up their second victory in Group A at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Monday.

The scorecard was a clear indication of how tough the battle was between the two sides and it was a beautiful finish by Ayo Akinola that clinched the game for the Americans.

USA top Group A with two victories – they beat India 3-0 in the opener – while Ghana, who beat Colombia 1-0, play India next.

USA coach John Hackworth opted for a defensive 5-4-1 formation with Josh Sargent playing as the sole striker to stop the Ghana forwards and the strategy worked well for them in the first 15 minutes.

USA focus on defence

The inclusion of Ajax FC defender Sergino Dest in place of striker Ayo Akinola provided USA extra depth in the back. As a result, USA were able to slow down the game with short and precise passing. Ghana wingers Aminu Mohammed and Sadiq Ibrahim were cramped for space by the five-man defense and their trademark pacy attacks were nowhere to be seen.

The tide slowly started changing as Ghana were back to their pacy best. And in the 35th minute, Ibrahim’s shot was saved brilliantly by the USA keeper.

USA also got a number of chances but Ghana’s Danlad Ibrahim first pulled off a brilliant save from a Josh Sargent header and followed it up with a timely block to deny Andrew Carleton. At half-time, the teams were 0-0 though USA’s 58% possession indicated their slight dominance.

Attacking football

The second half started with both teams looking to play attacking football. USA brought Ayo Akinola on for Tim Weah and that extra burst of pace in the final third proved to be the deciding factor.

The Toronto FC striker received a measured Christopher Goslin pass and the youngster made no mistake in putting the ball in the back of the net.

The goal was exactly what USA needed to grab total control of the game as Ghana struggled to stage a comeback. The strikers resorted to long range shots, and although some of them were on target, they were not good enough to bother USA goalkeeper Justin Garces.

Ayo Akinola received a golden chance to double his tally towards the end of the game, but his shot was not good enough.

Ghana coach Paa Kwesi Fabin blamed a lack of finish for the loss. “We worked on goal-scoring before this game. Maybe we need to work harder. We could have won the game, but if you miss chances like that, you will be punished and that was what happened today,” he told the media conference.

First Published: Oct 09, 2017 20:35 IST