30 January 2014
Goals were hard to come by as both semi-finals of the 2014 African Nations Championships (Chan) were decided from the penalty spot at South Africa’s Free State Stadium on Wednesday evening.
Libya were first to book their place in the title-decider after edging Zimbabwe 5-4 following a goalless draw between the teams after extra time.
In the late game, Ghana and Nigeria played to another goalless draw before the Black Stars triumphed 4-1 from the penalty spot.
It will be the second time in the three Chan tournaments that Ghana will contest the final. They previously finished as runners-up in 2009 after going down 2-0 to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Heavy rain at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein affected a match that Zimbabwe should have won, but poor finishing let the Warriors down.
Libyan goalkeeper Mohamed Abdaula fumbled a shot by Danny Phiri within the first five minutes of the contest and then was forced to steer a long distance effort from Ali Sadiki over the bar.
The Warriors’ Simba Sithole headed wide and was again off target early in the second half, while Sadiki continued to test Abdoula with shots from range as Zimbabwe turned up the heat on the Mediterranean Knights.
Kudakwashe Mahachi then blew a gilt-edged opportunity to put the Zimbabweans ahead when he blasted the ball over the crossbar.
In the additional 30 minutes added on after the regulation 90 had ended scoreless, Libya almost stole victory when substitute Elmutasem Abushnaf was wide of the goal after a mix-up between Phiri and goalkeeper George Chigova.
Zimbabwe pushed hard for the win, but the Libyan defence held firm and the contest was decided from the penalty spot.
Ghana had to deal with Kwabina Adusei being sent off midway through the second half of their semi-final against Nigeria, but the Super Eagles could not make their one-man advantage count.
The Blacks Stars adopted a counter-attacking strategy, which they combined with some robust defence, which meant the Nigerians did most of the attacking.
Abubakar Ibrahim came oh so close to putting them ahead in the 27th minute with a long distance strike. It beat goalkeeper Stephen Adams, but struck the crossbar and the scores remained level.
Spurred on by the narrow miss, the Super Eagles pushed hard for an opener, but the teams went into the break goalless.
Ghana’s tough tackling came back to haunt them when Adusei was shown a red card in the 63rd minute following a high challenge on Abubakar.
Once more Nigeria heaped pressure on Ghana, but still the Ghanaians held firm and the match moved into extra time.
When Barnabas Imenger went down in the box in the 96th minute, the Super Eagles thought they had won a penalty, but their appeals were turned down. Imenger then shot over the crossbar after being set up by Ejike Uzoenyi.
Late winner missed
Imenger could have fired a late winner for Nigeria, but he was wide of the target with the goal mouth gaping wide open in front of him.
The Nigerians were made to pay for their misses when the game went to the penalty spot, where the Super Eagles’ poor finishing continued as Solomon Kwambe and Ugonna Uzochukwu missed their kicks.
The Chan final takes place at the Cape Town Stadium on Saturday, kicking off at 20:00. It will be preceded by the third place playoff between Zimbabwe and Nigeria.