HOUSTON, Texas. At the BBVA Compass stadium, a first-half penalty from Elias Hernandez was all El Tri‘s Gold Cup hopefuls needed to get past a barnstorming Ghana side 1-0.
Luis Pompillo’s side came into the match looking to gain clarity and practice with possession-based and group-defending approaches as players were also looking to earn their place. But almost right away, the Black Stars generated chances early. Their best chance of the opening stanza came in the ninth minute, when Frank Acheampong worked his way past two Mexico defenders, for a shot from just outside the penalty area that went wide of Moises Munoz’s goal.
As the first half wore on, El Tri grew into the game and started to generate pressure with the ball. After Rodolfo Pizarro failed to take advantage of a breaking pass by Angel Sepulveda, Mexico earned their best goal-scoring chance of the game in the 31st minute, when referee Baldomero Toledo caught John Boye taking down Jesus Gallardo late inside the 18 yard box. Elias Hernandez then placed his penalty past Ghana goalkeeper Richard Ofori to open the scoring for El Tri.
Not all was good news for the hosts in the first half. Four minutes after Elias Hernandez’s goal, starting goalkeeper Moises Munoz had to be subbed off due to precaution for concussion symptoms he suffered after an aerial duel with a Ghana attacker in the six yard box.
And in the second half, El Tri could not hold onto possession much. And both teams, overall, lost their fluidity and focused on organization as the subs came in. There was a promising dribble by Orbelin Pineda in the attacking third of the pitch, but it was quickly snuffed out. And late in the match, with Luis Pompillo’s side content to defend in numbers, the Black Stars nearly got their equalizer. But Frank Acheampong’s 77th minute shot rattled off the post.
Ghana continued to try to break the Mexico defending late, but ultimately the Black Stars could not find a breakthrough. And the “Gold Cup” selection held on for the victory.
The Gold Cup side will play one more friendly against Paraguay on July 1 in Seattle, Washington before beginning their continental championship campaign. The Black Stars, who brought along the side that played Ethiopia in a 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier, next travels to East Hartford, Connecticut, where they will take on the United States, also on July 1.