African Cup of Nations – Agogo puts Ghana through
Eurosport – Sun, 03 Feb 21:27:00 2008
Hosts Ghana survived the dismissal of captain John Mensah to reach the semi-finals of the African Cup of Nations after a thrilling 2-1 victory over Nigeria in Accra.
Yakubu’s penalty gave Nigeria the lead before Michael Essien‘s header drew Ghana level on the stroke of half-time.
Fate seemed to be swinging against the hosts when skipper Mensah saw red for a professional foul after an hour, but Junior Agogo’s late tap-in ensured the Black Stars’ progress to the last four.
The match represented the 60th meeting between the West African rivals, and it got off to a fiery start when Sulley Muntari squared up to Obinna Nwaneri after being caught by a late tackle inside 15 seconds.
Yakubu spurned a good chance to put Nigeria ahead when he turned his man on the edge of the box before dragging a left-footed shot wide, and with Muntari and Essien prompting from midfield Ghana began to take control.
Muntari saw a low cross from the left cut out by Joseph Yobo before Asamoah Gyan crashed a shot against the outside of the post from the edge of the box after being released down the inside right channel by Essien.
Nottingham Forest striker Agogo then spurned a good chance to put Ghana ahead when he over-ran the ball when clean through on goal, but just as it looked like a goal for the hosts was only a matter of time, Nigeria hit back.
Ike Uche wasted an excellent opportunity to score when he toe-poked the ball straight at Ghana goal-keeper Richard Kingson from 15 yards, but his blushes were spared minutes later when Nigeria were awarded a penalty for Eric Addo‘s tug on Yakubu.
The Everton man stepped up to confidently slot the ball inside Kingson’s right-hand post, and Ghana appeared thoroughly shell-shocked until Essien rose to head Quincy Owusu-Abeyie’s left-wing cross past Austin Ejide in first half injury time.
Nigeria began the first half in spirited fashion, and after Yakubu almost embarrassed Kingson with a lob from 45 yards Peter Odemwingie saw a shot from just inside the area saved.
Ghana looked reluctant to push men forward, and their hopes were dealt a huge blow on the hour when captain Mensah was sent off for tripping the lively Odemwingie as he bore down on goal.
Taye Taiwo stung Kingson’s fingers with a well-hit left-footed drive from the ensuing free-kick, and Ghana coach Claude LeRoy sent on Hearts midfielder Laryea Kingston for Gyan in an attempt to shore things up.
With full-time beckoning the game entered a scrappy period, and Ghana midfielder Anthony Annan was lucky to escape punishment after an off-the-ball altercation with John Obi Mikel.
But Nigeria couldn’t make the most of their man advantage, and with seven minutes remaining Agogo tucked home Muntari’s low cross from close range to send the Accra Sports Stadium into raptures.