Pretoria: An Asamoah Gyan penalty six minutes from time gave Ghana a crucial 1-0 World Cup victory over 10-man Serbia in Group D at the Loftus Versfeld stadium here on Sunday.
Gyan’s spot-kick was awarded for Zdravko Kuzmanovic’s needless handball in the box after Serbia had lost Aleksandar Lukovic to two bookings.
And the noise which met Ghana’s victory, the first by an African country at this year’s World Cup, by a partisan African crowd was truly deafening.
Ghana’s victory puts them in pole position to emulate their performance in 2006 and qualify for the knock-out rounds in a tough group including Germany and Australia.
Chances were few and far between in a poor first half and every time either side played a pass with either pace or distance, the receiver was taking so long to bring the ball under control that the move lost its momentum.
What few chances there were largely came from dead ball situations.
Gyan fired a 25 yard free-kick over the bar on four minutes while Serbia’s Aleksandar Kolarov also curled a free-kick just over.
Things picked up after the restart as Prince Tagoe dinked a cross from the right to the back post but Andre Ayew, the son of Ghana legend Abedi Pele, headed wide from close range when it looked easier to score.
Up the other end Marko Pantelic played an identical ball into Nikola Zigic but the Valencia forward somehow played the ball back away from goal.
Gyan then clipped the outside of the post with a header from John Pantsil’s long throw into the six-yard box.
Ghana had been the better side and their hopes of finding a winner improved on 74 minutes as centre-back Lukovic was dismissed for a second booking for tugging Gyan’s arm.
And yet it was Serbia who should have broken the deadlock as substitute Danko Lazovic beat Pantsil and pulled the ball back for Milos Krasic but his left-foot effort was straight at goalkeeper Richard Kingson who palmed the ball over the bar.
From the resulting corner Manchester United centre-back Nemanja Vidic sent a bullet header a touch too high.
Chelsea right-back Branislav Ivanovic then burst forward and hit a dipping drive just over.
But then substitute Kuzmanovic’s flailing arm connected with a deep cross into the box and Gyan thrashed the ball home.
And the Rennes striker was denied a second by the post in injury time as he curled the ball around goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic.