The Ghana captain, John Mensah, scored a rare goal and was then sent off as the African Cup of Nations favourites, Ghana, laboured to a 1-0 win over Botswana in their opening Group D match yesterday.
The giant defender, who has played one league game since returning to Lyons in France this season, bundled home the ball from close range, following a corner after 25 minutes. He latched on to a flick-on from Asamoah Gyan and deflected the ball into the net off his knee.
Mensah received the first red card of the tournament, which is being co-hosted by Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, in the 66th minute, when he knocked over the Botswana striker Jerome Ramatlhakwana in a chase for the ball. Mensah caught him on the edge of the penalty area and was sent off for a professional foul. He will now miss Ghana's match against Mali in Franceville on Saturday.
Botswana qualified as one of the surprise packages of the preliminaries and enhanced their reputation with a solid defensive performance. The veteran Ghana defender John Paintsil cleared the ball off his line early in the second half, after an attack by Botswana.
The Niger midfielder Moutari Amadou will miss the rest of the tournament after breaking his left leg in a 1-0 defeat by Gabon on Monday