A 3-0 victory in the semi-final against host nation Equatorial Guinea has put Ghana in the African Cup of Nations final for a record ninth time.
The four-time winners of the tournament were missing captain and the nation’s all-time leading scorer Asamoah Gyan. He was a last-minute withdrawal due to a hip injury the 29-year-old sustained in the quarter-final against Guinea. Lorient’s Jordan Ayew was his replacement and is not a popular player in Ghana after some poor performances recently. With high expectations on his shoulders as the little brother of star vice-captain Andre Ayew the team will be hoping he rises to the occasion. Manager Avram Grant is well aware of the criticisms Ayew receives, however, his teammates and the boss continue to show faith in the youngster.
“You can’t stop people from talking. People spoke about Kwesi Appiah even before he started training and John Boye but now he is doing well so it’s normal for people to speak about the players. People can speak about the mistakes they make but they need to respect the players and not to hang the players for their mistakes. Because these players are giving everything to the national team. Jordan Ayew is a very good player and I’m sure he will give a lot to the national team in the future,” said Grant to Ghanafa.org
Ghana had a couple of opportunities to take the lead off set pieces but they missed the marked each time. In the ninth minute, the National Thunder had the best chance early in the match to open the scoring. Right winger Kike used his pace to burst clear down the right flank and whip a cross into the box. Forward Emilio Nsue Lopez fell trying to make contact with the ball but his teammate, midfielder Javier Balboa, still had a chance to score only for his half-volley to fly wide.
Just like the last match, the Black Stars struggled to create chances, but in the 41st minute goalkeeper Felipe Ovono fouled Stephen Appiah in the box for a penalty and subsequent yellow card. Jordan Ayew stepped up and knocked the ball home to the bottom right-hand corner. And just before halftime, Equatorial Guinea were caught napping after a corner kick when winger Christian Atsu led a blistering counter-attack and squared the ball to midfielder Wakaso Mubarak, who cut inside his marker to fire in and double Ghana’s lead.
After halftime, the Black Stars had a couple of chances to increase their tally but couldn’t finish. Eventually, Ghana decided to kill the clock and just waste time so that they could guarantee their place in the final. The last goal of the match came in the 75th minute when Andre Ayew scored off an assist from Appiah.
With about five minutes left in the game, fans of the National Thunder were furious at the scoreboard and decided to attack Ghanaian fans and throw objects onto the field delaying the game for 30 minutes. Tear gas was thrown into the crowd to try to calm things down, but unfortunately it appear to incense the fans even further. The nation was not expected to last long in the tournament and wasn’t even in AFCON until Morocco decided against hosting it because the ebola epidemic. The Equatorial Guinea national team deserve praise for how they played and representing their homeland, however, their fans have regrettably disgraced them.
The Black Stars’ victory now places them against neighbor and fellow underachiever Ivory Coast in the final. Both nations have produced a ‘golden generation’ in the last decade but have no silverware to show for their prized talents. Sunday will give each team a chance to exorcise their demons and build a new legacy.
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