Asamoah Gyan scored from the penalty spot in the 85th minute to lift Ghana to a 1-0 win over Serbia in Group D action Sunday at the FIFA World Cup in Pretoria, South Africa.
The main story line
What was Zdravko Kuzmanovic thinking?
The midfielder came into the game as a substitute in 62nd minute to help shore up the Serbian midfield in what was a tight battle between the two countries.
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But he ended up undermining his team's efforts, foolishly and needlessly handling a Ghanaian cross played into the Serbian box in the 83rd minute. Although a Ghana player was draped all over him, Kuzmanovic was in no danger as the ball was flying high over his head and away from goal.
But he raised his hand — perhaps out of instinct? — and made contact with the ball, leaving the referee no choice but to point to the penalty spot.
The winning goal
Gyan stepped up and blasted a powerful shot down the middle that Serbian goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic had no chance of stopping.
Turning point of the game
Serbian defender Aleksandar Lukovic was expelled in the 74th minute when he earned his second yellow card of the game. Nine minutes later, while Serbia was under pressure, Zdravko Kuzmanovic was called for a handball offence in the Serbian box, setting up Gyan to be the hero.
What this result means
Few gave Ghana much chance of emerging from Group D without their captain Michael Essien, who has been ruled out of the tournament with a knee injury. But Sunday's result has elevated the Black Stars' chances of moving on to the next round, having defeated one of the toughest teams in the group. A win in their final first-round game against Australia would likely secure a berth in the round of 16.
Serbia was considered the Group D co-favourite with Germany, but this loss means they are in big trouble. A tough match against the Germans awaits, and another setback would all but eliminate the Serbs from contention.
Man of the match
In a game devoid of entertainment value, Marko Pantelic was a bright spot. The Serbian forward showed off his deft playmaking skills, expert passing ability and tried to make things happen for his country in the final third of the field. The game could have used a lot more of his attacking invention.
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Save of the match
Neither Stojkovic nor Ghana's Richard Kingson were called upon to make any difficult stops for most of the game. But with 10 minutes left in regulation, Kingson made a fantastic save on a close-range effort from Milos Krasic to deny the Serbian of what seemed like a sure goal.
The Ghanaian perspective
"Every African is behind us. I salute all you guys, we win this match for you." — forward Asamoah Gyan
The Serbian perspective
"Ghana has showed not all the big names play good football in the World Cup." — defender Neven Subotic
Serbia takes on Germany in Port Elizabeth on June 18 (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 7 a.m. ET), while Ghana meets Australia on June 19 in Rustenburg (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 9:30 a.m. ET).