Ghana reach African Nations Cup final after angry fans delay end of semi
MALABO, Equatorial Guinea -- With riot police protecting the players from incensed rival fans and using tear gas to disperse trouble-makers, Ghana advanced to the African Nations Cup final with a 3-0 win over host Equatorial Guinea on Thursday.
Angry fans forced a halt to the game with less than 10 minutes to go. Gabonese referee Eric Otogo-Castane stopped play in the 82nd minute for about 40 minutes before continuing.
Officials restarted the match at the 90th minute and ended it after three minutes of stoppage time.
Ghana sealed a place in the final against Ivory Coast after a penalty from Jordan Ayew and a Wakaso Mubarak strike at the end of the first half and a tap-in from Andre Ayew in the second.
The fans became incensed after Ghana scored two late goals in the first half, and riot police were called in to protect Ghana's players and fans from thrown objects.
After Ghana scored a third goal in the second half, the small section of Ghana fans were escorted onto the field where they stood behind a goal.
They were eventually escorted off through a tunnel, though it took more than 30 minutes to clear them from the pitch.
The referee stopped the match in the 82nd minute and the players were left waiting in the middle of the pitch to find out if the match would restart, with the Equatorial Guinea players pleading with their fans to calm down.
No idea what will happen. It's not safe for anyone. Players, staff and officials continue deliberations. Helicopters flying right over pitch- Nick Ames (@NickAmes82) February 5, 2015
One fan ran onto the field during the stoppage and confronted one of the linesmen, but he was quickly taken away by security.
A police helicopter appeared over the stadium several times, flying perilously close to fans in one end of the stadium. The wind from the propellers caused debris to fly up from the emptying seats. Riot police later entered another section and cleared the area of fans, whacking their shields with their batons to scare spectators.
Fans now led out right in front of press box. Helicopter still hovering low. This is an absolute mess.- Nick Ames (@NickAmes82) February 5, 2015
Equatorial Guinea only stepped in to host the tournament at the 11th hour after Morocco pulled out because of the Ebola epidemic.
Having never qualified for a World Cup, their only previous African Nations Cup campaign was in 2012 when they reached the quarterfinals. They went one better than that by knocking Tunisia out in the last eight in the most dramatic of circumstances, but that achievement was soured by events at the end of their next match.
Although the match action was overshadowed by off-field events, Ghana's win came thanks to two goals at the end of the first half and a third in the second and booked a final meeting with Ivory Coast.
The opening goal arrived following a costly rush of blood from Equatorial Guinea goalkeeper Felipe Ovono. He raced rashly out to meet Kwesi Appiah on the corner of the area, but only succeeded in sending him flying. It was a blatant penalty and Ovono could count himself fortunate to only receive a yellow card.
Jordan Ayew's penalty was coolly converted as he waited for Ovono to commit before slotting the ball into the other corner.
Ghana struck again before the break and again the hosts had only themselves to blame. Kike's corner was headed clear at the near post and set Ghana on the counter. Equatorial Guinea had committed far too many people forward, leaving themselves wide open at the back.
Ghana had a three-on-one scenario and took advantage as Christian Atsu squared the ball to Wakaso, who shifted back inside his marker before firing powerfully home.
Ghana should have made it three early in the second half, but Andre Ayew could only head meekly wide from six yards following Jonathan Mensah's header back across goal. It was a glaring miss.
Ovono flew off his line again to close down Appiah, but this time his judgement was right and he saved from the striker with his feet.
Andre Ayew did find the net with a tap-in in the 75th minute.
Ovono raced out again to meet Appiah and his challenge held up but did not halt the striker. Appiah recovered the ball, looked up and picked out his team-mate in the centre to tuck the ball home.
Ghana looked set for a routine final 15 minutes, but the violence in the stands made it anything but, with their fans forced to take shelter for their own safety.
When the match did finish, following much toing and froing between the match officials, players and coaches and competition officials, Grant and counterpart Esteban Becker embraced and there were handshakes between the players.
Equatorial Guinea face a third-place play-off against DR Congo in the same stadium on Saturday, with Ghana and Ivory Coast meeting in the final in Bata a day later.
Information from The Associated Press and Press Association was used in this report.