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Soccer News of Friday, 2 February 2001

Source: uefa

Meridian Cup: Starlets lose to Spain

With the president of CAF, Issa Hayatou, and the UEFA Chief Executive, Gerhard Aigner among the spectators, the Spanish holders preserved their Meridian Cup title when they recorded a comfortable 2-0 win against Ghana at the same as the Italian hosts fell at the hands of Nigeria. – This was enough for Spain to take the Top Team award with three wins and a draw to show from their four games.

Puddles on the pitch
Heavy rain before kick-off had produced a waterlogged pitch but despite the difficult conditions, Spain stuck to their usual skilful ball-playing game, which was rewarded after 20 minutes, when the holders put together a delightful three-man attacking move which culminated in a neat one-two that put Jonan Garc?a clear into the Ghanaian penalty area and Garc?a kept his nerves to beat keeper Alex Agyepong with a cool cross-shot. Juan Santisteban’s side maintained a firm grip on midfield throughout and Ghana found themselves limited to long-range attempts against a stubborn Spanish rearguard.

Ceballos settles it
Had there been any doubts about the outcome, they were settled in the 66th minute when Spain doubled their lead thanks to a superb effort from RCD Espanyol midfielder Juan Carlos Ceballos who broke clear from midfield, burst into the African box and elegantly chipped the ball over Agyepong as he came charging out. After that, the Spaniards squandered chances to increase their lead but, when news came through of Italy’s defeat, the Spaniards brought down the curtain on the tournament by gathering in the centre-circle and jubilantly chanting ‘campeones!’

Double for Santisteban
"It was our best performance of the tournament," said Juan Santisteban, who also led Spain to the Meridian title in 1999. "I thought we played better than Ghana and deserved our win. I think we should won by a larger margin but we didn’t make the most of our chances. But I have to admit that the conditions were much more of a handicap for Ghana than for us. They are simply not used to playing in such heavy conditions. In terms of the future, this tournament has been a valuable chance to assess the players who have come into the team for the first time." The Ghanaian coach, Francis Oti Akenteng, agreed that the tournament had been a priceless experience for his young team. "But we paid the price for lack of experience at this level and the pitch was also very difficult for my young team. I think that we failed to create any real chances and I would say that Spain and Italy are at about the same standard."

Lineup for Starlets: Agyepong, Ankamah(Quartey 60), Sulley Muntari, Quaye, Alhassan, Avevor, Ampeh, Yamoah(Gado 71), Salu Muntari, Adofo, Ocansey