Hosts Ghana advance to semi-finals after beating Nigeria

Society Materials 3 February 2008 23:31 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa )- A ten-man Ghana side on Sunday came from behind to qualify for the semi-finals of the African Nations Cup after beating West African rivals Nigeria 2-1 in Accra.

The Black Stars, who had captain John Mensah sent off on the hour, won through goals by Michael Essien and Junior Agogo , while Yakubu Ayegbeni scored for the Super Eagles.

In front a capacity 40,000 crowd in the Ohene Djan stadium in Accra, the Black Stars dominated most of the early play, but failed to create any real chances.

Sulley Muntari put a shot into the side-netting early on and Asamoah Gyan came close midway through the first half when he flicked the ball to himself, rushed into the area and unleashed a powerful shot that crashed against the upright.

Somewhat against the run of play the Super Eagles took the lead in the 33rd minute when Peter Odemwingie went down in the area, but Algerian referee Mohamed Benouza waved play on.

The ball however came to Uche Ikechukwu , who was brought down by Eric Addo . Everton striker Ayegbeni made no mistake from the spot as he pushed the ball past goalkeeper Richard Kingson .

The Nigerians could have doubled their lead a few minutes later as Odemwingie played the ball into the middle of the goalmouth, where Uche dummied the ball, leaving it for Ayegbeni , but he fluffed his shot.

The fourth official allowed three minutes of extra time, which was enough to give the hosts the break they needed as Muntari played a cross into the area onto the head of Chelsea star Essien , whose header floated above Ejide against the post before trickling over the line in the second minute of injury time.

Nigeria had the stronger opening spell in the second half as they went forward in search of a second goal.

Two minutes after the restart Kingson had to rush off the line to clear with a header, but the ball fell to Obinna Nwaneri , who immediately shot goalwards from 40 metres , only for the back- pedalling goalkeeper to tip it over the bar.

The Black Stars were reduced to ten men on the hour as Odemwingie was brought down just before the box by last-man Mensah and the captain was immediately red carded for the offence.

Nigeria came close to scoring from the resultant free-kick as John Obi Mikel pushed the ball to Taiwo Taye , but his shot was excellently saved by Kingson .

Ghana grabbed the lead in the 85th minute after substitute Haminu Draman pushed the ball to Muntari , whose cross to Nottingham Forest's Junior Agogo gave the striker the simplest of tap-ins.

The final whistle was greeted by scenes of wild jubilation by the Black Stars' players and fans, who started dancing and waving flags on the field and in the stars.