2 February 2014
Libya were crowned the 2014 African Nations Championship winners at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday evening, edging Ghana 4-3 in a penalty shootout after the teams had shared a goalless draw.
It was a first ever African title for the Mediterranean Knights, who had lost to the Black Stars on penalties in the final of the Africa Cup of Nations way back in 1982.
President of the Confederation of African Football Issa Hayatou and Fifa President Sepp Blatter were joined by a crowd of about 17 000, who were treated to a tightly contested match which either side could have won in regulation time had their finishing been better.
Ghana’s Seidou Bansey went close with a header barely a minute into the game, forcing Mohamed Abdaula, in the Libyan goal, into a save.
Three minutes later, however, Elmutasem Abuschnaf was presented with a wonderful opportunity to give the Mediterranean Knights the lead after a mistake in the Ghanaian defence allowed him through on goal. Black Stars’ goalie Stephen Adams reacted superbly to rob the striker of the ball to keep the teams level.
Most of the action took place in the middle of the field as both teams struggled to break free of the opposition’s gritty defence and the pattern was repeated in the second half.
With 10 minutes left in regulation time, Ahmed Almaghasi looked as if he would finally break the deadlock, but Samuel Ainooson, with a fantastic effort, managed to block a goal-bound shot with his body.
In extra time Libya again came close to finding a goal, but Abuschnaf spurned a fine opportunity by heading over the bar from close range after Elmehdi Elhouni had picked him out with a beautiful cross.
Abdul Mohammed went oh so close to netting for Ghana, but his shot angled just wide of the far post of the Libyan goal.
Libya’s Abdelsalam Omar then had time to pick his spot from about eight metres out, but Adams was up to the challenge and pulled off a fine save from the young striker.
The momentum swung Ghana’s way as the clock ticked down, but they couldn’t find a way through the Libyan defence and the game went to penalties, as both semi- finals had done.
Abdaula excelled, saving the Black Stars’ first two spot kicks from Michael Akuffo and Ainooson, to hand the Libyans the advantage, but Ghana’s Adams responded with two saves of his own, from Elgadi and Omar.
When Ahmed El Tribi netted for Libya, Tijani Joshua had to score for Ghana, and when he missed wide of the goal the Mediterranean Knights had claimed victory.
Nigeria claimed third place with a 1-0 win over Zimbabwe in the curtain-raiser.
The Warriors had to cope with the loss of Masimba Mambare to a straight red card after only 17 minutes, but it took the Super Eagles until five minutes from time to score the winner, which came from substitute Christian Obiozor, who beat George Chigova with a header.
There was some consolation for hosts South Africa, who had been ousted in the group stages, when striker Bernard Parker won the Golden Boot after scoring four goals in Bafana Bafana’s three matches.
Nigeria’s Ejike Uzoenyi was named the Player of the Tournament.