Ivory Coast, Ghana through to Nations Cup semi-finals

Society Materials 4 February 2008 03:18 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa )- A 10-man Ghana and a convincing Ivory Coast became the first two teams Sunday to qualify for the semi-finals of the African Nations Cup.

The hosts came from behind to beat Nigeria 2-1 in Accra, while Ivory Coast had few problems in overcoming Guinea 5-0 in Sekondi .

Ivory Coast, who are considered one of the tournament favourites , were in control throughout the game and fully deserved the victory, which equalled the widest margin ever achieved at the finals.

In 1970, Ivory Coast scored a 6-1 win against Ethiopia.

In Sekondi , underdogs Guinea went into the game weakened as captain Pascal Feindounou was suspended and stand-in captain Bobo Balde pulled out of the game injured.

They managed to withstand the Ivorian pressure for the first 25 minutes before Abdelkader Keita opened the floodgates with a well- taken shot from an acute angle that beat goalkeeper Kemoko Camara at the near post.

The Elephants added four more goals in the second half.

Chelsea want-away Didier Drogba scored his side's second in the 70th minute after playing a one-two with Arthur Boka and then shrugged off a challenge to beat Camara .

Drogba turned provider just three minutes later as he fed Chelsea teammate Salomon Kalou , who took the ball around Camara and strolled it into an empty net.

In the 81st minute, Yaya Toure took the ball down the flank and played it back into the path of Kalou , who had the simplest of tap- ins.

Guinea's misery was compounded in the 86th minute when Bakary Kone scored into the top corner from 20 metres .

Ivorian Emmanuel Eboue said that they were just happy to have advanced to the semi-finals.

"It does not matter whether we play against Egypt or Angola, we are just glad that we went through," he said. "I think we played very well, and I am sure that we must stand a good chance to go all the way."

The Black Stars, meanwhile, had a much more difficult task as they had to come from behind to beat Nigeria's Super Eagles. They had captain John Mensah sent off on the hour but won through goals by Michael Essien and Junior Agogo , while Yakubu Ayegbeni scored for the Super Eagles.

A capacity 40,000 crowd in the Ohene Djan stadium in Accra saw the Super Eagles take the lead in the 33rd minute when Peter Odemwingie went down in the area, but Algerian referee Mohamed Benouza waved on play.

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 fourth official allowed three minutes of extra time at the end of the first half, 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.

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.

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 an easy tap-in.

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.

As can be expected, 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."

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."

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 coach 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."