Nigerian players gutted after defeat against 10-man Ghana

( dpa )- A 10-man Ghana side came from behind to qualify for the semi-finals of the African Nations Cup by beating West African rivals Nigeria 2-1 Sunday 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. The Nigerian players were gutted after the defeat. "I think we had a lot of hard luck. We played very, very well. We could just not finish it off," said John Obi Mikel . The Chelsea player defended beleaguered Nigeria coach Berti Vogts . "I don't think this had anything to do with the coach," Mikel said. "We have a lot of good players. It is all about putting in a lot of effort." Peter Odemwingie said that he was bitterly disappointed with the result: "I think we could do better. I think we should have gone forward more when we were playing against 10 players." 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 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 goalward from 40 metres , only for the backpedalling goalkeeper to tip it over the bar. The Black Stars were reduced to 10 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 resulting free-kick as 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. Vogts said that his Nigeria side lost the game through two mistakes. "It was an even game. We made two mistakes and were punished. Of course we are very disappointed," he said. "We lost against an opponent who played very well. It would have been better for us to score the goal that lead to the red card and continued to play against 11 players." The German said that he would return to Germany and consider his future with the Super Eagles. Ghana defender Hans Sarpei said that he was very pleased that his side had advanced to the semi-finals. "I think one could see that two very good teams played against each other. Both played well," he said. "We came back strongly after the penalty. After the red card we still believed in ourselves. We defended well and waited for chances to break. We then used them."

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