LIMBE, Cameroon, November 20- Elizabeth Addo’s controversial 70th minute penalty and Portia Boakye’s late goal drowned Kenya’s Harambee Starlets in their debut at the African Women’s Championship (AWCON) as they went down 3-1 to Ghana’s Black Queens at the Omnisport Arena on Sunday.
Kenya had gone ahead in the 24th minute via an Esse Akida volley, but Ghana fought back with Samira Suleiman equalizing four minutes after the restart while Addo’s penalty gave the West Africans the lead and Boakye sealed the deal with a 90th minute free kick.
Despite Boakye’s cross having hit Ann Aluoch’s arms outside the box, the referee pointed straight to the spot despite huge protests from Kenya, a goal which awakened Ghana’s revival.
There was more controversy five minutes later when the ref seemed to have given Kenya a penalty after Akida came down under an aerial challenge, only to change her mind and give the Black Queens a free kick instead.
Starlets had an early scare with captain Addo heading the ball in from a freekick, but the first assistant referee had her flag up for offside, giving a huge reprieve to the debutants.
Ghana started strongly with the pace of Addo and Priscilla Okyere driving the team forward, but a line of astute defensive cover ensured Kenya maintained the even score.
The West Africans who have reached the AWCON final thrice in their history were threatening especially on set pieces which Kenya at times found hard to defend.
In the 13th minute, captain Addo once again found some space inside the box to head in from a corner, but the effort rolled wide. Four minutes later, Boakye had an attempt from a free-kick but it landed straight into the arms of Samantha Akinyi, the Starlets custodian.
As the game wore on, so did David Ouma’s girls start growing into the game. In the 20th minute, Christine Nafula took on a spirited run on the right, wheeling past two markers before slicing in a low cross into the box.
However, Corazone Aquino could not get a boot on the ball with Mary Kinuthia picking it at the far end, but she was adjudged to have come from an offside position.
The goal finally came in the 24th minute with golden girl Akida swinging a half volley into the net after Wendy Achieng’s cross from the left gracefully bounced away from a Cameroonian defender, finding the forward unmarked at the far right.
The Black Queens almost drew level four minutes later with skipper Addo curling her effort over the wall and inches wide off Akinyi’s goal.
Ghana continued to threaten through set pieces but Starlets were lucky as none of the opportunities threatened.
Kenya almost finished the half on a high but Aquino could not get a strong shot on target after the Ghanaian keeper Ama Nana punched Elizabeth Ambogo’s free kick on her path.
Ghana came back from the breather with venom and equalized four minutes in from another set piece. Suleman dived in at the edge of the six yard box to head in a free kick from Boakye with the Kenyan defense left dazed.
Kenya custodian Samantha Akinyi was forced into a great save in the 53rd minute, narrowing the angle at the near post to block a shot from Suleman who had picked up a ball beautifully lofted into the area behind the Kenyan defense.
Four minutes later, Okyere danced away from Wendy Achieng on the right but her ferocious shot could only hit the side netting,
Starlets had a chance against the run of play with Cherish Avillia’s shot after the keeper spilled a Kinuthia corner going over in the 66th minute.
Ghana’s strong start ended in Addo’s penalty goal, albeit controversially with the Kenyan girls left dismayed.
On the other end, the Kenyans thought they were handed a lifeline with the referee initially pointing to the spot for a penalty after Akida came tumbling from an aerial challenge, but after confrontation changed her mind to award Ghana a free kick.
There was more drama eight minutes from time with Suleiman being denied her brace after curling the ball over Akinyi on the right, but the second assistant referee’s flag was already up with the ball curling out of play.
Ghana sealed the deal in the 90th minute, Boakye’s freekick from distance dripping into the net with Akinyi dummied by Okere who had attacked the ball, but left it go over her.
In the earlier match, defending champions Nigeria started their title defense with a burts beating Mali 6-0 with Arsenal Ladies star Asisat Oshoala scoring four.
The Super Falcons now lead the group with Ghana second heading into the second round of matches on Wednesday. Kenya will play Mali while Ghana square it out with Nigeria.