Thursday, January 28, 2010

Black Stars outshine Super Eagles in Semifinal

Ghana have booked their place in the Africa Cup of Nations final for the first time in 18 years after beating west African rivals Nigeria 1-0 in Luanda on Thursday.

The Super Eagles controlled large parts of the semifinal, but were unable to find a goal after Asamoah Gyan had given Ghana the lead midway through the first half.

The Nigerians have been far from convincing in this tournament, bar perhaps the 3-0 win over Mozambique in the group stages, and they could not turn that poor form around against a young, inexperienced Ghana side who appeared to be living off adrenalin alone.

These are heady days for Black Stars fans, with the juniors having won the 2009 FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Egypt recently, and the senior team having first sealed World Cup qualification in South Africa, and now a place in the final of the continental championship.

Ghana saw little possession in the early stages of tonight’s semifinal, but were ahead on 21 minutes. A Kwadwo Asamoah corner was curled to the near post and Gyan stole in ahead of his marker to nod the ball home.

Nigeria should have been level seven minutes later as Peter Odemwingie tried his luck from 35 yards out. But he succeeded only in hitting it straight at Obafemi Martins, who controlled brilliantly just inside the area but could not beat Richard Kingson in the Ghana goal despite having the time and space to pick his spot.

Odemwingie then missed a fairly simple headed chance, before shooting wide when well placed as Nigeria began to create some clear-cut openings.

It was then Martins' turn to miss two further chances, first completing a “fresh air” shot after John Obi Mikel's cushioned header, and then finding the out-stretched right arm of Kingson as he was put clean through on goal.

Elderson Echiejile drove a ball across the box, but it hit Yakubu Aiyegbeni on the thigh right in front of goal and went wide, with the Everton man having no chance to control it despite having the goalmouth at his mercy.

Yakubu and Martins both had chances behind the Ghana defence, but the Super Eagles’ frustration mounted as they repeatedly failed to get a shot away from inside the six-yard box.

Ghana proved able to ride the wave of pressure and deservedly booked their place in Sunday's final, while Nigeria will have to be content with a place in the third-place play-off on Saturday.

All Africa

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