Ten-man Ghana booked a date with Libya in the African Nations Championship with a 4-1 penalty shoot-out victory over Nigeria at the Bloemfontein Stadium after regulation time ended 0-0.
The much anticipated clash between the West African rivals began on a very competitive note with the Black Stars going for the attack right from the blast of Referee Sikazwe’s whistle.
Ghana launched the first real threat as Seidu Bansey eased past two Nigerian defenders to hit his shot at Chigozie Agbim’s goal but his effort went just wide.
In the fourth minute, the stadium was thrown into confusion as Nigeria’s stand-out man in the competition Ejike Uzoenyi went unconscious after a collision with a Ghanaian defender in an attempt to win an aerial ball.
The Black Stars were in cruise control for more than 15 minutes of the first half but rarely threatened the Nigerian goalkeeper thanks to a more composed defence anchored by Kunle Odunlami.
The Super Eagles' first chance to score came in the 10th minute when Abubakar Ibrahim almost converted a free kick taken following Yahaya Mohammed’s foul on Abdullahi Shehu.
Few minutes later - in the 26th minute to be precise - Nigeria very nearly went ahead through Abdulahi as his long range missile bounced off the Ghanaian cross bar – a result of a counter-attacking move orchestrated by Ugonna Uzochukwu after the Black Stars’ corner was cleared away by Azubuike Egwuekwe.
Ghana looked weighed down by the almost tangible sense of expectancy among a partisan crowd packed into the Blomfontein Stadium as dangerman Uzoenyi mesmerized Michael Akuffo's anchored backline.
On resumption of the second half, Nigeria looked more dangerous in attack but failed to convert chances that came their way as they wide of Stephen Adams’s goal.
Maxwell Konadu’s men were reduced to 10 in the 64thminute as Kwabena Adusei got his second caution of the night following a rough challenge on Nigeria’s Abubakar.
Keshi brought on Barnabas Imenger for Ifeanyi Ede who had a below par performance to take advantage of the opponent’s deficit but the Black Stars looked rock-solid as they thwarted every attacking moves of the Eagles.
With both sides horribly devoid of ideas, extra time appeared inevitable. Imenger was the culprit in the first half of extra time as he failed on three occasions to put Nigeria ahead.
With five minutes left to play Imenger was denied an absolutely magnificent winner when a close–range header was turned out by the Ghana keeper. The Black Stars keeper was forced to make another save from Uzoenyi a minute later to ensure the game went to penalties.
The Black Stars kept their nerves to score four of their spot kicks while Nigeria were only able to convert one.
Ghana will meet Libya in Saturday's final game as Nigeria will make do with a third place match against Zimbabwe.