Ghana defeat shouldn't prompt Kwesi Appiah overhaul
It feels like Ghana took many steps forward and one step back when they were defeated 1-0 by Kenya away in Saturday's 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.
Nicholas Opoku's first-half own goal gave Kenya their first competitive win over Ghana, boosted their own qualification hopes from Group F and, while it has not dented Ghana's chances of reaching an eighth straight AFCON immensely, it has put many of coach Kwesi Appiah's decisions under scrutiny again.
Ghana still top Group F on account of a healthy goal difference with all four teams on three points after Ethiopia beat Sierra Leone 1-0 on Sunday. The result in Nairobi means the double-header against Sierra Leone next month has taken on added importance for Appiah.
Before then there will also be a lot of time for the former Ghana captain to reflect on some of his decisions, with various controversial calls by the manager generating debate since the defeat.
It was a performance that threw up some familiar Ghana problems, but none as loud as the theme of poor finishing.
Thomas Partey, a regular source of goals for Ghana in the last year just could not find range this time, Afriyie Acquah was delivering clearing headers instead of finishing ones, and Raphael Dwamena's finishing was uncharacteristically below par.
"Everyone who watched the game knows we would have won if we had taken our chances," midfielder Christian Atsu told KweséESPN. "We had a lot of possession and created a lot of chances, but these things happen."
Atsu is clear, though, that the result won't alter the bigger picture for Ghana.
"There is nothing to be afraid of, because Ghana will qualify for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon." For that to happen, Appiah needs to do some rethinking.
This was nothing like the poor, lethargic overall display that some of the commentary has suggested, but coaches are judged by the outcome of big decisions and the ones he made did not work on Saturday.
After all the effort that went into pulling Internazionale midfielder Kwadwo Asamoah back into international football, it was odd that he started on the bench.
Ahead of Ghana's Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match against Kenya, @EddyDove asks if Kwadwo Asamoah's return will be enough to see off the Harambee stars.- Kwesé ESPN (@kwesesports) September 7, 2018
WATCH ⬇️ #KweseESPN pic.twitter.com/OnIKDTMMT2
Majeed Waris's form at club level during his loan at FC Porto last season and at the start of this season made his call-up -- and choice as lead striker -- curious.
His overall display only strengthened those who say he should not have been there at all. The overall team display also strengthened the case of a major absentee from the side, Jordan Ayew.
The Crystal Palace striker was one of Ghana's best players last season, with an admirable goal return of 11 in all competitions. Appiah doesn't appear keen to rely on him, but at some point, his continued omission will begin to become an unwanted distraction.
What Appiah does not need to do is to drastically alter his team and go back on some of the tough decisions he has taken.
This was a team that created tonnes of chances, and it was the same side that, in the last year, has won three away games and scored nine in the process.
It is a team that has not been handicapped by the absence of the Ayew brothers or Asamoah Gyan, and didn't look handicapped in their absence on Saturday.
All three players were involved in the poorest game Ghana played in the last year, at home to Congo-Brazzaville.
It does not mean Appiah must continue to shut the door on the trio completely, but the idea that somehow, Ghana have suffered a setback in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers because of their absence is overstretched.
The month of October should provide a clearer picture and before then there will be a lot of matches at club level that will impact on the composition of whichever team Appiah may seek to call up.
Abdul Rahman Baba is back at club level with Schalke 04, Emmanuel Boateng is back from injury at Levante, while Appiah will hope Richmond Boakye Yiadom returns among the goals as quickly as possible at Red Star Belgrade.
Dwamena may be suffering a crisis of confidence, but everything about his career to date should convince Appiah to stick with him.
He has not become bad overnight on the account of a poor day in Nairobi. Neither have this Black Stars side, despite the inevitable pessimism that's accompanied their defeat.