Influential Ghana captain John Mensa is suspended for the match against Cameroon.
|Off to the final: Cameroon players rejoice after spoiling the host’s party [AFP]|
The script counted for little as Alain Nkong became the unlikely hero to put Cameroon into the Africa Cup of Nations final, scoring in the 71st minute off a pass from Samuel Eto’o for a 1-0 win over host Ghana.
Cameroon, who will play either Ivory coast or defending champion Egypt, advanced to the continental final for the sixth time and first since winning the last of its four crowns in 2002.
“Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose,” said Cameroon coach Otto Pfister, who led Ghana to the 1992 African Cup title match.
“Cameroon has the best bench in the tournament. There’s no difference between each player.”
Ghana was without suspended captain John Mensah, forcing the Black Stars to drop midfielder Michael Essien to the center of its defence.
“We waited and waited and we hit them on the break,” Nkong said.
“In the end it was our mental strength that got us through. We were criticised so much after the first match. Every match has been a final for us since.”
The hosts started strongly. Eric Addo just missed a header on Sulley Muntari’s free kick in the fifth, but Ghana faded as the Indomitable Lions took control of midfield.
“Cameroon gave us a very difficult game because John Mensah was suspended,” Ghana coach Claude Le Roy said.
“I thought we were ready to win and get to the final. It is a big disappointment for us and all the fans.”
In the 22nd, Essien misjudged a bouncing ball and Achille Emana intercepted to hit a powerful shot just over the crossbar from the edge of the penalty area.
Then, Geremi tried his luck from 40 meters with a free kick and the ball dipped to hit the bar in the 40th.
In a moment of utter madness, Cameroon defender Andre Bikey was sent off in injury time for pushing a medical worker who was treating his own player, Rjobert Song and will now miss the final.
The Reading defender was pelted with plastic bottles as he left the field, and police had to escort him down the tunnel.
Nkong ran onto a perfectly weighted pass from Eto’o and calmly sidefooted past goalkeeper Richard Kingson and into the bottom right corner for the winner.
Cameroon defender Geremi headed over Andre Ayew’s goal-bound shot in the 70th, and Ghana striker Junior Agogo headed over an open goal from close range in the 81st.
|Ghana fans arrived with confidence but left
in despair [AFP]
Ghana’s problems mounted before kickoff.
Laryea Kingston injured his ankle in the warmup and was replaced by Andre Ayew, son of former African player of the year Abedi Pele.
Cameroon started with Joseph-Desire Job in attack alongside Eto’o.
Ghana’s attacking game failed to gel and only Ayew troubled Kameni with a low shot after cutting in from the left.
While Alexandre Song Bilong received treatment after clashing with Essien in the 54th, Eto’o stood in the middle of the field and appeared to be having a heated discussion with Emana.
Eto’o received little service, just like in the 3-2 quarterfinal win over Tunisia, although neither did he make any impact until he set up the goal.