Australia 1 - Ghana 0

A makeshift Australia emerged from this dire shambles of a football match one goal victors over Ghana, despite the visitors rallying strongly at the end of the game.

Australian coach Pim Verbeek claimed he got something from the match. If it's anything other than confirmation of a dozen players he won't be needing for serious encounters, he was kidding himself.

Ghana "Black Stars" didn't look like the best team in Africa or deserving of their FIFA ranking of 14. Many stars were missing (notably FA Cup winning midfielder Sulley Muntari from Portsmouth and Chelsea's Michael Essien).

There were quite a few other of the Ghana players trying their hands in the European leagues, including West Ham's John Paintsil and PSV Eindhoven's Eric Addo. But most of the "Stars" that took the pitch were far from luminous.

Ghana were using the game as part of the team's preparation towards the World Cup and African Nations qualifiers, which begin in June. Assistant coach James Akwesi Appiah claimed he saw some quality football. He also was kidding himself.

The omens weren't good from the start when a "technical difficulty" prevented the Ghanaian national anthem being played before the kick off. The crowd — which embarrassingly had to be coaxed to support their team by holding up plastic retractable "scarves' — was not impressed.

Australia kicked off and soon worked the ball to Ghana's debutante keeper, William Amamoo (2007 best goalkeeper in the Romanian Liga II side, Liberty Salonta). George Owu (playing with Al Masry Club, Egypt) replaced Amamoo (now with Vasalund, Sweden, and on his way to Coventry) in the second half.

One Ghanaian tactic was to get the ball to Haminu Dramani (Lokomotiv Moscow), who liked to go his own merry way.

Australian captain Harry Kewell (formerly Liverpool), leading from the middle of the park, looked for Joel Griffiths (Avispa Fukuoka and Newcastle Jets), but he was offside. Then Griffiths got behind the Ghanaian defenders but wasted his cross.

His brother, Adam Griffiths (Newcastle Jets) at right back, one of the few players to play respectably for Australia in the first half, looked good beating Dramani.

It took the Ghanaian players many attempts before they learned there was no point dropping to the ground and rolling around for several minutes hoping a free kick would result.

Joel Griffiths in front of goal on the edge of the Ghanaian penalty area should have shot but passed square to the left. Jacob Burns (FC Unirea Valahorum, Romania) shot high from 25 metres.

Ghana's Laryea Kingston (currently playing for Scottish Premier League club Heart of Midlothian) the best player on the park, showed good skill on half way and hit a nice long ball but found striker Emmanuel Agyemang Badu (Berekum Arsenal, Ghana) offside.

Another long ball found Manuel (Junior) Agogo (Nottingham Forest), who scored against Australia in November 2006. Agogo scored again, but he was a long way offside.

For Australia, David Carney (Sheffield United) crossed from the left and Amamoo held at the second attempt.

In the 20th minute Mile Sterjovski (Derby County) turned on the ball in the top right side of the Ghanaian penalty, found time to shoot, but provided no difficulty for Amamoo. Badu got close to the Australian goal line at the other end.

So far it had been rubbish football, any flow disrupted by frequent fouls.

In the 25th minute Badu down the left got the ball across to Kingston who shot low from 25 metres but it was an easy save for Mark Schwarzer. The woman sitting next to me cheered nevertheless. This became a pattern: no decent play to applaud, so let's go nuts about any insignificant pleasure.

Joel Griffiths again crossed to no-one.

Sterjovski earned his first yellow for a foul on defender Afful Harrison (Asante Kotoko in Ghana), who later hit a long shot high and wide.

Dramani shot so far off target it crossed the sideline.

The guy to my right and the woman to my left exchanged comments about how bad the game was.

Adam Griffiths continued to do a good job on Dramani, who still managed in the 37th minute to get the ball into Agogo who shot weakly toward the left post where Schwarzer gathered.

Two minutes later Agogo beat Schwarzer to a ball on the edge of the penalty area but fired it to the left, away from the target.

Kingston was about the only player on the pitch who didn't stink, but then even he tried another long shot, high and off target.

The half time whistle blew and the guy next to me said, "Thank God for that."

Half time urinal conversation overheard: "It's been a disappointing game for the Socceroos."

"If they can't string together a second side, it's not very encouraging."

I exchanged hopes with the guy in the stands next to me that half the team would be changed at half time. A particular desire was that previously uncapped Matthew Spiranovic (FC Nuremberg) would get a run. He did eventually and acquitted himself well.

Before the start of the second half Ghana's anthem also got a run. Better late than never?

The gaffe must have distracted Ghana's players. Sterjovski dispossessed John Mensah (Rennes, French Ligue 1) and ran 20 metres before driving a rising shot from inside the box. Australia were in the lead.

Schwarzer took the ball low on a cross from Kingston after making a hash of a clearance.

Ghana were still attacking half seriously through little flicks, long balls and shots from distance.

Carney took a long ball from Schwarzer and worked into the Ghana penalty area but wasted his pass.

When Daniel Allsopp (Melbourne Victory) came on in the 65th minute for James Troisi (let go by Newcastle United, England), Kewell moved to the left wing and immediately became (relatively) more effective. Unfortunately, soon after Kewell too was substituted by Sydney FC's Mark Bridge. At least Kewell lasted longer than the coin toss.

There was more clever play by Kingston, turning and beating two players in the middle of the park, running to the line to the right of the box and crossing.

Substitute Derek Asamoah (of French side Nice) beat Carney and crossed, only for Spiranovic to clear.

Ghana, facing an imminent loss, cranked it up and won a couple of corners. Kingston had another shot; not bad but wide of goal. The crowd by this stage couldn't care either way, amusing itself with repeated Mexican waves.

Schwarzer came far out of his area to make a clearance and Sterjovski earned a second yellow and left the pitch.

Schwarzer made an important save in the 88th minute near his right post.

Bridge cut in across the top of Ghana's box and air-swung his shot.

Ghana looked much more interested but left their run too late. Afful shot at Schwarzer and Dramani beat substitute Nicolai Topor-Stanley (Perth Glory) on the right and forced Schwarzer to save at the near post.

Another shot. Schwarzer saved. Full time.

After the game Verbeek said some players, Kewell included, were not match fit. He said Australia did not win enough second balls in the first half and that final passes should have been better.

He said Kewell was outnumbered two to one in the first half but he reorganised his defensive midfielders in the second half to give Kewell more support.

Unsurprisingly, he said it was not the standard of football Australia usually played. And he did not expect it to be. Perhaps he should have warned 30,000 people about that before they bought their tickets and were asked to pay over $4 for a pie.

Appiah as happy with Ghana's switching, tackling and teamwork. He thought his team deserved a penalty near the end.

written by Stephen Webb