Disputed Ayew penalty takes Ghana to play-offs, DR Congo also qualify

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Abubeker Nasir (L) equalises for Ethiopia in a 1-1 draw against Zimbabwe in a World Cup qualifier in Harare on Sunday. (AFP/Jekesai NJIKIZANA)
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Captain Andre Ayew converted a controversial penalty in his 100th international appearance on Sunday to take Ghana into the African World Cup qualifying play-offs with a bruising 1-0 victory over South Africa.

The former West Ham United midfielder sent rival skipper Ronwen Williams the wrong way from the spot kick in Cape Coast on 33 minutes for the lone goal of the Group G decider.

Ghana were awarded the penalty when the Senegalese referee ruled that Leicester City defender Daniel Amartey had been pushed, but TV replays suggested the home player dived.

Ghana and South Africa tied on 13 points and both had plus-four goal differences, but the Black Stars won the section because they scored seven goals, one more than South Africa, over six rounds.

Ethiopia finished third after Abubeker Nasir netted four minutes from time to snatch a 1-1 draw with Zimbabwe in Harare.

Kudakwashe Mahachi had put the hosts ahead before half-time with a long-range strike that whistled past goalkeeper Teklemariam Shanko.

The Democratic Republic of Congo also progressed to the play-offs after defeating Benin 2-0 in Kinshasa through goals from Dieumerci Mbokani and Ben Malango to win Group J.

Ghana and DR Congo join Egypt, Mali, Morocco and Senegal in the play-offs, along with four other group winners to be decided on Tuesday.

The contenders are African champions Algeria and Burkina Faso (Group A), Tunisia, Equatorial Guinea and Zambia (Group B), Nigeria and Cape Verde (Group C) and Ivory Coast and Cameroon (Group D).

In Kinshasa, Mbokani converted a 10th-minute penalty in a match the Congolese Leopards had to win to overtake Benin, and a Malango header on 74 minutes sealed maximum points.

- Mbokani boosts DR Congo -

Kuwait-based Mbokani quit the national team four years ago, but was persuaded by fellow forward Cedric Bakambu to return for the World Cup campaign and has scored four goals.

Reaching the final stage on the road to Qatar is a huge boost to DR Congo after failing to qualify for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon, which has been postponed until January because of Covid-19.

Veteran DR Congo coach Hector Cuper is seeking a second straight appearance at the global football showpiece after the Argentine guided Egypt at the 2018 tournament in Russia.

Cuper was dismissed when Egypt, handicapped by an injury that limited the game time of star forward Mohamed Salah, lost all three group games.

Tanzania ended third after drawing 1-1 in Madagascar where Simon Msuva put the visitors ahead and Hakim Abdallah levelled.

Senegal, lacking injured star Sadio Mane, finished Group H unbeaten after a routine 2-0 home win over Congo Brazzaville with Watford winger Ismaila Sarr scoring twice within 10 minutes during the first half.

Mali finished seven points ahead of second-place Uganda in Group E after winning the top-of-the-table clash 1-0 in the Moroccan coastal city of Agadir through a Kalifa Coulibaly goal.

The Malian Eagles, seeking a maiden World Cup appearance, were the only country among the 40 in the group stage not to concede,

On Monday, Kenya host Rwanda in the same section with both sides chasing a first victory and wanting to avoid the embarrassment of finishing last.

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