MALABO, Equatorial Guinea: Missile-throwing home spectators caused a near 40-minute second-half delay as Ghana set up an Africa Cup of Nations final with Ivory Coast by outplaying hosts Equatorial Guinea 3-0 Thursday (Feb 5).
Play was halted eight minutes from time as disgruntled home fans flung various objects on the pitch and a lengthy break ensued before order was restored and play resumed.
A police helicopter flew low over the ground while Ghanaian supporters, feeling threatened by the home crowd, spilled into the area surrounding the pitch at the 15,000-seat Estadio de Malabo.
A Ghana Football Association tweet read: “Police helicopter hovers above the pitch with the Ghana fans in real danger. It’s now like a war zone.” Players, coaches and the match officials stood on the pitch during the drama while security officials ushered Ghanaian supporters into one section of the ground.
Jordan Ayew converted a 42nd-minute penalty, Mubarak Wakaso struck a minute into first-half stoppage time and Andre Ayew tapped in on 75 minutes of the semi-final. The final in port city Bata Sunday will be a repeat of the 1992 final won 11-10 on penalties by Ivory Coast after 120 goalless minutes in Dakar.
That was the Ivorians’ lone Cup of Nations title while Ghana have won the African football showpiece four times, although the last triumph came in Tripoli 33 years ago.
Equatorial Guinea, who exceeded expectations by reaching the semi-finals, face the Democratic Republic of Congo in Malabo on Saturday for third place. However, after Thursday’s shambolic scenes, it remains to be seen whether or not that match will be played at the venue.
Ghana began the match without captain and star striker Asamoah Gyan, who was named among the substitutes having not fully recovered from an abdominal injury. But the absence of the Black Stars’ talisman was hardly noticed as two late first-half goals gave the four-time African champions a 2-0 half-time advantage.
Equatorial Guinea, who shocked Tunisia in the quarter-finals after levelling through a dubiously-awarded penalty, offered stubborn if sometimes disorganised resistance for much of the half.
The gap in class – Ghana are 81 places higher on the FIFA world rankings – was often glaringly obvious with the Black Stars retaining possession while Equatorial Guinea surrendered the ball too cheaply.
The home side were first to threaten with a quick break leading to a cross from Kike Boula, but teenager Iban Edu slipped inside the box as he prepared to shoot.
Ivan Esono rescued the National Thunder soon after at the 15,000-seat Estadio de Malabo, blocking the ball at the expense of a corner as Andre Ayew was set to blast the ball goalwards.
Home goalkeeper Felipe Ovono, one of the finds of this Cup of Nations, darted off his line to block an attempted lob from Andre Ayew after another fluid Ghana attack.
The Black Stars had more rhythm and penetration and it came as no surprise when they took the lead three minutes before half-time. Kwesi Appiah and Ovono collided as they chased after a delicate pass into the box and the Gabonese referee judged that the goalkeeper had committed a foul and flashed a yellow card.
Up stepped Jordan Ayew – younger brother of Andre and son of Ghana legend Abedi ‘Pele’ Ayew – to calmly slot the ball into the right corner as Ovono moved in the opposite direction.
Ghana doubled the advantage a minute into stoppage-time as the home side were caught cold by a swift counterattack and Wakaso fired into the net from close range. The third goal came when an Ovono block ran loose to Appiah, whose low cross was side-footed over the line by Andre Ayew from close range.