Zambia through to African Cup of Nations final

Zambia is through to the final of the African Cup of Nations for

the first time in 18 years after beating Ghana 1-0 on Wednesday

from Emmanuel Mayuka’s late goal.

The second-half substitute scored in the 78th minute to punish

Ghana for missing an early penalty. Striker Asamoah Gyan’s

eighth-minute spot kick was saved by goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene.

Gyan’s penalty failure echoed his miss from the spot in the

World Cup quarterfinal against Uruguay two years ago. On Wednesday,

the striker was later substituted.

Zambia’s win sets up an emotional final in the Gabonese capital

Libreville, where 25 players and officials were killed in a plane

crash in 1993. Ivory Coast faces Mali later Wednesday in the other

semifinal.

”This is the greatest moment ever a player can have to play in

the final,” Zambia captain Christopher Katongo said. ”We go to

the final without any pressure. We have to take this cup, this is

an opportunity. It doesn’t come every day.”

Zambia coach Herve Renard was full of praise for his

players.

”It’s amazing,” Renard said. ”They did something fantastic

(in reaching the semifinals), but now they did something

amazing.”

”We were lucky,” he added. ”Our goalkeeper saved us after a

few minutes.”

Ghana’s Derek Boateng was shown a late red card as his team sank

to defeat. His team dominated possession and had a string of

chances, but could find no way past the Zambia defense.

”We are sorry for the whole of Ghana for what happened today,”

captain John Mensah said. ”It’s unlucky that we lose this game. We

promise them we will come back strongly next year.”

Ghana coach Goran Stevanovich snubbed the post-match news

conference, while Gyan also avoided talking to the media.

Stevanovich made three changes from the starting lineup that

beat Tunisia 2-1 in extra time in the quarterfinals, with Jordan

Ayew replacing Sulley Muntari, defender Lee Addy making his first

start of the tournament in place of Masahudu Alhassan, and Boateng

coming in for the injured Emmanuel Agyemang Badu.

Jordan Ayew joined brother Andre in the team, while Gyan and

Mensah were also selected after shrugging off injury doubts.

Zambia coach Herve Renard brought striker James Chamanga into

the starting lineup with Mayuka dropping to the bench, while Davies

Nkausu was preferred to Chisamba Lungu in defense.

”I called Emmanuel Mayuka to my room this morning and told him

that he had played four very good games, but I just wanted him to

rest a bit to be ready for the last 30 minutes,” Renard said.

”When you are coach sometimes you are right sometimes you are

wrong. This time I was right.”

Despite organizers offering free entry, the 37,500-capacity

Estadio de Bata was still mostly empty at kickoff. Hundreds of fans

were still streaming into the stadium at halftime, though.

Zambia started well, but Ghana was presented with a penalty when

Nkausu was ruled to have clipped Kwadwo Asamoah’s trailing leg in

the box. Gyan stepped up but his low effort brought a diving save

from Mweene.

”It was the key to the game,” said Renard, who was again

wearing his lucky white shirt. ”If we concede a goal at this

moment it would have been very difficult for us to come back.”

Despite failing to take the lead, Ghana began to dominate and

Gyan tried to make amends with a shot from the edge of the area in

the 10th that Mweene pushed to safety.

Andre Ayew picked out younger brother Jordan unmarked at the

back post from a 32nd-minute free kick, but he was unable to

connect and Zambia immediately counterattacked.

Rainford Kalaba dribbled past challenges on the edge of the box

and slipped a pass to Katongo, who pushed his shot wide when clean

through on goal to spurn Zambia’s best chance.

Ghana was still on top however, and Asamoah went close to

scoring with a shot in the 39th that was deflected just wide.

”When we went to the dressing room during halftime, if the

score was 2-0 to Ghana we couldn’t complain,” Renard said. ”I

said (to the players) if you don’t want to go home and regret

(this) all your life, then you have to try something.”

Stevanovic was forced to replace the injured Mensah in the 71st,

and a clearly unhappy Gyan followed him off the pitch in the 74th

to make way for Prince Tagoe.

Soon after, Zambia made the breakthrough. Mayuka turned on the

edge of the box and curled a shot in off the far post past

goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey.

Mayuka performed a series of somersaults in celebration, before

the players and some reserves joined in a choreographed dance on

the sideline.

Teams:

Zambia: Kennedy Mweene, Joseph Musonda, Davies Nkausu, Stophira

Sunzu, Hichani Himoonde, Francis Kasonde (Chisamba Lungu, 66),

Isaac Chansa, Rainford Kalaba, Nathan Sinkala, Christopher Katongo,

James Chamanga (Emmanuel Mayuka, 46).

Ghana: Adam Kwarasey, John Mensah (Isaac Vorsah, 72), John Boye,

Samuel Inkoom, Lee Addy, Derek Boateng, Andre Ayew (Sulley Muntari,

82), Kwadwo Asamoah, Anthony Annan, Asamoah Gyan (Prince Tagoe,

74), Jordan Ayew.