Black Stars shoot to African final
Ghana are into the CAF Africa Cup of Nations final for the first time in 18 years after a 1-0 defeat of Nigeria at the 11 November stadium on Thursday. In form striker Asamoah Gyan got the priceless first-half goal to claim the honours as Ghana moved to within one win of a fifth continental crown.
The Black Stars' opponents in Sunday's 2010 climax will emerge from Thursday's second semi-final in Benguela between holders Egypt and Algeria. "It's unbelievable," said Gyan. "We are a young team and not many people gave us a chance of making the final."
Ghana coach Milovan Rajevic added: "I told my boys we were not going to play beautiful football today, we were going to play for a result. Nigeria had a few good chances but my team are very young and sometimes due to inexperience it led them (Nigeria) to create chances."
Under-fire Nigeria coach Shaibu Amodu was asked at the post-match press conference if he was going to stand down. "My contract is until August. If I'm still in charge up to the World Cup I will look at our deficiencies in this competition and look at areas of reinforcement," he said. "I said before we came here we don't have the best team but I'm confident we are developing from match to match. I don't think we lost to a better side, we lost to a youthful and enterprising side."
Ghana made one change from the side that knocked out hosts Angola in the quarter-finals, with Haminu Draman making way for the fit again midfielder Anthony Annan taking to the field for the first time in Angola. Nigeria were without defender Onyekachi Apam, sent off in the last eight penalty shoot-out defeat of Zambia, with Obinna Nwaneri called up in his place. Coach Shaibu Amodu made two further alterations, Obafemi Martins coming in for Everton striker Yakubu Aiyegbeni, and Ayila Yussuf in for Fulham midfielder Dickson Etuhu.
A Manchester derby resembles a childrens' tea party compared to the rivalry between these west African footballing giants, with Ghana holding the recent bragging rights following their 2-1 quarter-final win over their larger neighbours at the 2008 Nations Cup on home soil.
FIFA president Joseph S. Blatter and a regiment of Angolan soldiers were among the 10,000 plus crowd to watch Ghana given a scare seconds after kick off when Peter Odemwingie crossed to Martins, who was unable to do the pass justice. Nigeria were looking a good deal more energised than in the quarter-finals with Martins menacing the Ghana back line repeatedly in the first quarter-hour.
But it was Ghana who took the lead in the 21st minute against the run of play when Kwadwo Asamoah fired in a corner from the left for Gyan to outjump his marker, Nwaneri, and head past Vincent Enyeama. That was the in-form Rennes striker's third goal of the competition, putting him joint top of the scoring charts. Ghana, with their sprinkling of youngsters and smattering of experienced stars, almost doubled their lead shortly after only for Gyan's dipping shot to go over Enyeama's crossbar.
Nigeria's front men Odemwingie of Lokomotiv Moscow and Martins were combining well and their double act would have produced an equaliser if it hadn't been for Ghana captain and skipper Richard Kingson's athletic save on 26 minutes. Ghana coach Milovan Rajevic was forced into an unscheduled substitution on the half-hour mark when Draman was introduced into the fray in place of injured Opuku Agyemang.
Seconds after the break Kingson was at full stretch to keep out a shot inadvertly sent in his direction at an alarming rate of knots by defender Lee Addy. On 63 minutes Rajevic switched Hans Adu Sarpei for Zamalek Ibrahim Ayew, who was joining his younger brother Andre in midfield.
Nigeria then strung together a slick three-cornered move involving Sani Kaita, Chelsea's John Obi Mikel and Martins, but Wigan stopper Kingson was having a great game, and kept Ghana in front by chesting Martin's close range shot out of danger.
Under-fire Nigeria coach Shaibu Amodu then took off Odemwingie, who handed the captain's armband to Yakubu Ayegbeni. The Everton forward was barely on the pitch when he was set up in front of goal by Elderson Echiejile, but his shot though cannoned wide. Ghana would need all their tenacity and luck to hold on in the dying minutes but they did it to leave the Nigerians' title hopes in tatters.