Gyan strikes again to put Ghana in final
Lightening struck twice for Ghana as Asamoah Gyan scored the only goal for the second game running as they beat regional rivals Nigeria to book their place in the African Cup of Nations final. "This is a moment we were all hoping for. It's been a while since the last time we qualified for the final in 1992," said Gyan, who was the match winner in the quarter- final against Angola. "All the expectation was on me as I'm the leading striker and I needed to score but that is what I did. We are ready now to play any country at all. We are disciplined and we don't fear anyone at all."
The only goal came midway through the first half when a Kwa-dwo Asamoah corner caught out the napping Super Eagles defence and the in-form Rennes striker applied the finishing touches. It was one-way traffic thereafter as wasteful finishing from their opponents, coupled with some dogged defending and some especially solid goalkeeping from the Wigan goalkeeper Richard Kingston, helped the four-times winners of the competition seal a place in the final for the first time in 18 years.
Milovan Rajevac's team, without more than five of their regular players through injury, were cautious throughout the 90 minutes, though. Nigeria were guilty of some poor finishing with Obafemi Martins one of the main culprits. He almost handed his side the perfect start after playing a neat one-two with Peter Odemwingie on the left, but defender Hans Sarpei did just enough to put the Wolfsburg striker off his stride.
After the fast start, the pace then slowed as the Black Stars struggled to force their way into the game. However, they stunned the Super Eagles into silence in the 21st minute with a goal that came completely against the run of play - Gyan's run to the near post catching the defenders off guard as he met Asamoah's corner with a powerful headed finish. The Rennes striker almost doubled the advantage shortly after with a cleverly attempted 20-yard lob that flew inches over Vincent Enyeama's goal.
Just before the half-hour mark Martins had the best opening for his side when Odemwingie's shot from outside the box deflected into his path, but the final 12-yard shot was too close to goalkeeper Kingston, who did excellently to push the ball wide. Shaibu Amodu's men were almost gifted an instant way back into the game after the break when Odemwingie's attempted pass was almost deflected into his own goal by Lee Addy, but for the intervention of Kingston.
With 20 minutes to go, Amodu decided to throw in Yakubu, who had an instant chance to score when he was put in six-yards out by another substitute Victor Obinna - the ball, though, was skied into the crowd. With 10 minutes to go, the anxiety began to show amongst the Nigerians as Ghana looked happy to sit back on their one-goal lead. They tried desperately to draw level, but it was not to be - the best chance of the closing stages coming when Sani Kaita fired wide - as Ghana claimed the bragging rights from west Africa.
Odemwingie, the Nigeria captain, said Ghana merited victory. "I think we have used all the luck we had so far in this tournament. Ghana deserved the victory they played very well," he said. "We played as individuals not as a team and I think we need more tactical flexibility than to play 4-3-3 all the time. We need to play more attacking football. "We played with one striker and it did not help us and we did not get a lot of chances. We could have played much better." Man of the match: Richard Kingston (Ghana)
* With agencies
Published: January 29, 2010 04:00 AM