A 32nd-minute penalty from Elias Hernandez was enough to steer Mexico to a 1-0 victory over a misfiring Ghana in the first of El Tri‘s two pre-Gold Cup friendlies.
While the Black Stars managed to outshoot Mexico 19-8, they were left to rue their missed chances against Mexico’s two veteran goalkeepers, Moises Munoz and Jesus Corona, who each came up with a number of key saves to preserve the shutout.
Not even a minute had elapsed when Ghana had the first of many chances. Majeed Abdul Waris got in on goal with only Munoz to beat, but the Puebla No. 1 stood tall to prevent the early score.
The chances came for both teams. Mexico threatened on 10 minutes when a Rodolfo Pizarro shot was deflected wide; Waris then had another look at goal with a header, but Munoz parried the shot to safety.
The rhythm of the half was to Ghana’s favor, but a surging run from Jesus Gallardo into the Ghana area in the 31st minute shifted the momentum, as the Pumas winger was brought down by John Boye.
Referee Baldomero Toledo did not hesitate to point to the spot, and a minute later Hernandez calmly stroked in a right-footer past Ghana goalkeeper Richard Ofori for a 1-0 Mexico lead.
A hard collision earlier in the half between Munoz and Boye ended with Munoz sustaining a head injury, and finally in the 37th minute the former Club America stopper was substituted off and replaced by Jesus Corona.
Corona was put to work right away by Ghana’s Raphael Dwamena, who forced a save from the Cruz Azul veteran.
Dwamena continued to threaten in the second half and should have brought Ghana level in the 52nd minute, but instead popped a shot over the crossbar from just five yards out.
The number of second-half substitutions from both sides saw the pace of play slow down and turn choppy, but still it was Ghana enjoying the best looks at goal, capped by Acheampong’s stinging 78th left-footer that plunked the post.
In the end, solid goalkeeping and a bit of good luck ensured the clean sheet victory for the reigning CONCACAF champions, who will play their second and final pre-Gold Cup friendly on Saturday against Paraguay in Seattle.
El Tri will then kick off its Gold Cup campaign in Group C on July 9 in San Diego against El Salvador.