Pretoria: Asamoah Gyan scored an 85th-minute penalty on Sunday to help Ghana to a 1-0 victory over Serbia and the first win by an African team at the World Cup.
Gyan sent the spot kick high into the net for the only goal at Loftus Versfeld after Ghana had missed a series of headed chances. The Ghanaians earned the penalty when Zdravko Kuzmanovic handled a cross in the area.
“This is all I have worked for,” Gyan said, “and to be man of the match, it is fantastic.”
John Mensah and Gyan missed the target earlier, and Dede Ayew headed against the post. Serbia’s only real threat near the end was a shot by Milos Krasic that was brilliantly saved by goalkeeper Richard Kingson.
The Serbs had Aleksandar Lukovic sent off in the 74th minute for a second yellow card.
Ghana, the only African team to reach the last 16 at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, had the vast majority of the support among the South Africans in the stadium. The fast-moving Ghanaians created more chances and should have been ahead by halftime.
“Every African is behind us,” Gyan said. “I salute all you guys. We win this match for you.”
Mensah headed a free kick wide of the far post and Gyan failed to reach a left wing cross by Kevin-Prince Boateng as the Serb defense failed to deal with well-directed balls into the middle.
Defender Aleksander Korolov produced the first danger to the Ghanaians with a 30-meter (yard) free kick that sailed wide and Kingson fumbled another long range drive by Dejan Stankovic.
But they made little use of the height of 2.03 meter (6-foot-8) striker Nikola Zigic, who went off in the middle of the second half after making little impact.
Ghana created another headed chance from a cross when Ayew got clear of the defenders in the 54th minute but headed wide of the far post with only the goalkeeper to beat. Then, a glancing header by Gyan flicked outside of the near post.
The Serbs finally got close in the 79th when Marko Pantelic left the ball to Krasic, whose first time left-footer was acrobatically pushed over the bar by Kingson. From the corner, Nemanja Vidic headed over.
In injury time, Gyan almost made it 2-0 but Gyan hit the post after a burst down the left.