Ghana coach James Kwesi Appiah says his players raised their game to record an important 3-0 win over Niger at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Goals from Asamoah Gyan, Christian Atsu Twasam and John Boye sealed victory for the Black Stars at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Monday.
Having opened their campaign with a 2-2 draw against Congo DR, followed by a narrow 1-0 win over Mali, beating Niger enabled Ghana to top Group B by three points, and Appiah was pleased with the emphatic nature of the victory.
“Personally I think Niger has a very good team,” he said.
“I would say that they defended very well but any time you meet a team it depends on the tactics that you also adopt to penetrate their team and I think today my players stepped up their performance levels and that resulted in Niger not coming out as they should have.
“But (in) saying that I have total respect for them.”
Appiah feels there is still for room for Ghana to improve, expressing his concern at how his team found themselves pinned back in their own half late in the contest.
“When you are leading by three, it is good you possess the ball, but these are some of the things that I don’t expect the team to do, to possess in our own last third of the pitch,” he said.
“That wasn’t the best but sometimes these things happen, you learn from it but it’s a big concern and we’ll talk about it.”
Gyan, a star of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, had failed to find the net during the first two games of the tournament, but he broke his duck against Niger.
Speaking afterwards, the Al Ain player acknowledged he was under pressure to deliver, but also pointed out the support role he played in setting up his team-mates.
“I like to play for the team as a striker,” he said.
“Definitely people will be expecting me to score. My ambition is to help my team to win. Any time I don’t score I try to open chances for my colleagues to score. I say to myself the right time will come and I think it is the right time. Looking at the game I created the second goal and even the third goal.”
Ghana will now meet Cape Verde in the quarter-finals on Saturday.