Zambia booked their place in the Sunday’s African Cup of Nations final, a competition they have never won, after a late but superb goal from substitute Emmanuel Mayuka stunned 10-man Ghana who dominated the game in Bata.
Mayuka curled home his winner from the edge of the area with 12 minutes remaining and Ghana’s hopes of a comeback were all but ended with the dismissal of Derek Boateng soon after.
Black Stars striker Asamoah Gyan was made to rue his first-half penalty miss, and a host of other chances, as the unfancied Zambians reached the final for the first time in 18 years.
Mweene saves Asamaoh Gyan’s early penalty
Ahead of the game Ghana coach Goran Stevanovic made three changes to the team he fielded in Sunday’s quarter-final against Tunisia. Derek Boateng came in for injured Emmanuel Agyemang Badu. Defender Lee Addy replaced Alhassan Masahudu, while Jordan Ayew got the nod ahead of Sulley Muntari. Captain John Mensah won his battle for fitness and started for the Black Stars.
Zambia coach Herve Renard made two changes. Francis Kasonde and James Chamanga came in to the side, while Chisamba Lungu and Emmanuel Mayuka were relegated to the bench.
From the off Zambia took the game to Ghana with Isaac Chansa firing one in from distance after just two minutes but his shot went over. A string of consecutive corners saw Zambia’s energetic start to the game start to take shape but the Black Stars defence cleared their line to calm proceedings.
Yet despite the positive start Zambia looked certain to go behind early into the match when Davis Nkausu tripped Kwadwo Asamoah in the area to concede an early penalty. It was Asamaoh Gyan who stepped up to take the spot kick but his tame effort was saved by Kennedy Mweene who palmed away the attempt.
It was now Ghana’s turn to dominate possession with Gyan shooting from distance but Mweene once again palmed away his attempt. Brothers Andre and Jordan Ayew showed some neat link-up play as they strove to get in behind the Zambian defence and despite countless more attempts from Gyan and his strike partner Kwadwo Asamoah in the first-half Ghana just couldn’t get the ball in the net.
Zambia did get back on the ball on 30 minutes and missed a glorious chance on the half-hour when Christopher Katongo was brilliantly played in behind the defence by Rainford Kalaba who twisted and turned his way through the Ghanaian defence before handing a shot on a plate for Katongo who fired just wide.
Ghana’s best chance of the half came on 33 minutes when Jordan Ayew scuffed an absolute sitter after his brother played in a wonderful cross but he totally missed at the far post.
HALF-TIME: ZAMBIA 0-0 GHANA
Again after the break it was Ghana who were storming forward, Jordan Ayew with a right foot effort at Mweene’s near post on 51 minutes but the shot stopper proved to be a hero once again when he gathered well on a greasy surface.
With the pace of the game slowed and the match mainly one-way traffic for Ghana it was Emmanuel Mayuka, who came on at half-time to replace James Chamanga, who looked to change things making an immediate impact when he broke down the right but his cross was snuffed out by John Boye.
By this point Ghana would have been wondering just what they had to do to get a goal. They were completely dominating play but Mweene was getting in the way of everything they could produce. Firstly Jordan Ayew skied his effort, then Andre Ayew’s in-swinging cross met the head of Gyan but his attempt went straight into the gloves of Mweene. Gyan had another try when he burst into the box past four Zambian defenders but shot straight at Mweene and minutes later Gyan was foiled once again when another headed attempt was sent wide thanks to pressure form, you guessed it, Mweene.
Surprisingly Gyan was then withdrawn from the game on 76 when he was replaced by Prince Tagoe as Goren Stevanovic tried to shake it up at the front. The tactical change didn’t pay off though as just two minutes later Zambia stunned everyone when Mayuka curled home from the edge of the area as his shot bounced of the post and steered into the bottom corner of the goal. Undeniably an amazing strike but one that made Ghana pay for all of their missed opportunities.
Three minutes later Zambia then tried to make it two when Mweene stole the ball for the head of Andre Ayew and broke quickly to send Rainford Kalaba through but he fired straight at Adam Kwarasey.
Ghana really did make the task difficult for themselves five minutes before the end when Derek Boateng picked up a second yellow card for a foul on Isaac Chansa. Yet the Black Stars refused to give up desperately delivering everything into the box but Zambia stood strong and cleared away with Herve Renard screaming at his players to hang on. Finally Ghana had to succumb to defeat when in the closing stages Tagoe was denied by Mweene once again.
FULL-TIME: ZAMBIA 1-0 GHANA
Heart break for Ghana as they crashed out of the tournament at the semi-finals stages. In the tournament that they were favourites to win right from the start the Black Stars never hit their full potential with lacklustre performances in all of their games and are now left to face up to the harsh reality that missed chances cost their place in the final. Oh well there’s always next year I guess.
Ghana will now play Mali for the second time in the tournament in the third place play-off on Saturday.
Zambia: Kennedy Mweene, Francis Kasonde, Joseph Musonda, Hichani Himoonde, Davies Nkausu, Isaac Chansa, Chris Katongo, Stoppila Sunzu, Rainford Kalaba, Nathan Sinkala, James Chamanga.
Ghana: Adam Kwarasey, Samuel Inkoom, Lee Addy, John Mensah, John Boye, Kwadwo Asamoah, Anthony Annan, Derek Boateng, Asamoah Gyan, Andre Ayew, Jordan Ayew.