Ghana Crush Nigeria
“No matter how high the Eagles fly, they cannot reach the Stars”. These were the words of a Ghanaian soccer fan after the Black Stars walloped the Super Eagles of Nigeria 1-0 yesterday in the semi finals of the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations in Angola.
Indeed, the Black Stars broke over 100 million Nigerian hearts when they trounced the Super Eagles because all the pundits had predicted victory for a star-studded Nigerian team over their inexperienced counterparts.
It was a nerve-wracking encounter that could have gone either way; in the end however, Asamoah Gyan's 20th minute goal was all Ghana needed to secure a place in the finals, scheduled for Sunday 31st January 2010 in Luanda.
From the blast of the referee's whistle, the Super Eagles dominated the game, but lack of bite upfront denied them the opener.
They bombarded the goal-area of their opponents at will, making the Ghanaians look a pale shadow of the side that defeated hosts Angola in the quarterfinals. Indeed, the Ghanaians were unimpressive, coming up with late tackles and poor finishing.
From the 16th minute however, the Black Stars started coming into the picture, fighting for 50-50 balls and showing that they were in the semifinals to compete. Their fighting spirit was rewarded with a goal in the 20th minute when Asamoah Gyan headed home a Kwadwo Asamoah cross.
Five minutes later, Asamoah Gyan nearly increased the tally when his long range curling shot missed the top post by inches.
Obafemi Martins missed a number of clear-cut chances to fetch the equalizer for his side. The first came in the 28th minute when he pounced on Osaze Odemwingie's unintended pass, and shot straight at Richard Kingson, who parried the ball to safety.
The Black Stars, comprising mostly of youngsters who were drafted into the team due to injury to their senior colleagues such as Michael Essien and John Mensah, found it difficult to withstand the physical play of the Nigerians. And with the referee waving play-on to clear fouls on Ghanaians, the 'young' Black Stars had no choice but to throw everything into the game. Urged on by Anthony Annan who was playing his first game of the tournament, Kwadwo Asamoah and Asamoah Gyan, the Black Stars exhibited the highest sense of discipline, especially in defence, in order to contain the marauding Nigerians.
Lee Addy of local side Bechem Chelsea was on hand to clear two dangerous situations in the 46th and 47th minutes.
Even though Nigeria pinned Ghana to the wall throughout the second half, the Super Eagles faced an insurmountable obstacle in the person of stand-in captain Richard Kingson, who made breathtaking saves to ensure his side's safe passage to the finals.
A cross-section of Nigerians based in Ghana expressed disappointment after the match, with some calling for the head of Coach Shaibu Momodou.
One female Nigerian actually broke down in tears after the match. “Why, why, why? This Ghana team should have been a walkover now,” she said amidst sobs.
By Mohammed Muniru Kassim