Ghana vs. Equatorial Guinea: Winners and Losers from AFCON Semi-Final
Ghana are into the Africa Cup of Nations final after easily seeing off host nation Equatorial Guinea 3-0 on Thursday.
Both Ayew brothers—Jordan and Andre—found the back of the net for the Black Stars. Between their goals, Mubarak Wakaso tallied as well.
The match was halted near the final whistle, however, after crowd trouble caused a delay of more than 40 minutes.
In the end, the two sides played three additional minutes and Ghana sealed their progress to Sunday's showdown with Ivory Coast.
Overall there were some eye-catching performances in Malabo, as well as one or two that were decidedly less impressive.
Following are the winners and losers from the semi-final.
Winner: Christian Atsu, Who Pulled All the Strings in Ghana's Attack
Christian Atsu had already enjoyed an impressive Cup of Nations coming into Thursday's semi-final. Against Equitorial Guinea, he cemented his status as one of the tournament's best players.
In the 42nd minute, his inch-perfect pass to Kwesi Appiah led to the penalty that Jordan Ayew converted, and just before half-time, he picked up an assist on Mubarak Wakaso's goal.
Loser: Iban, Who Was Disappointing for Equatorial Guinea
Iban scored an important goal against archrivals Gabon during the group stage of the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations, but on Thursday, he struggled to make much of an impact against Ghana.
In the 68th minute, he was booked for a needlessly spiteful encounter with Afriyie Acquah, and shortly before that, he delivered an abysmal free-kick that was easily intercepted.
It was a play that rather typified his evening, and he was withdrawn in favour of Sipo with 16 minutes remaining.
Winner: The Ayews, Who Both Found the Back of the Net
With talismanic striker Asamoah Gyan sidelined by a groin injury on Thursday, Ghana required big-game performances from brothers Andre and Jordan Ayew.
They both delivered.
Although Jordan started the match by repeatedly running into offside positions, he calmly awaited Felipe Ovono's first move before stroking the ball into the back of the net from the penalty spot late in the first half.
Andre, meanwhile, scored the game's third goal after receiving an excellent pass from Kwesi Appiah.
"Andre Ayew deserves that goal," freelance journalist Maher Mezahi tweeted. "Been a good leader today, organizing his team, and—arguably—Ghana's most dangerous attacker."
Winner: Kwesi Appiah, Who Added Movement and Ingenuity to Ghana's Attack
Like the Ayew brothers, Kwesi Appiah will have impressed Ghana manager Avram Grant with his movement and generally positive play on Thursday.
He tended to combine well with both Jordan and Andre Ayew, as well as Christian Atsu. In the 75th minute, he did well to retrieve the ball before sending Andre through to score the Black Stars' third goal of the encounter.
Perhaps most importantly, however, he won the penalty that allowed Jordan to open the scoring.
"Kwesi Appiah raced onto a ball from an Atsu pass and Evono tripped him," tweeted SuperSportTV's Gary Al-Smith. "Replays show it was a good call."
Loser: The Equatorial Guinea Supporters, Who Disgraced Themselves
A delay of more than 40 minutes near the end of the match caused chaos and fear in Malabo on Thursday.
Sections of the Equatorial Guinea support had already begun to toss bottles onto the pitch at half-time, and following the restart, they continued to rain projectiles down from the stands.
In the end, the referee suspended play while several National Thunder players pleaded with their fans to calm themselves.
"This is a shambles," tweeted John Bennett of the BBC. "More bottles being thrown from the Equatorial Guinea fans and more stoppages. Awful for the image of AFCON."
Ghana manager Avram Grant was quoted by Jonny Singer of the Daily Mail as saying:
I didn’t know what was happening, we saw some incidents of violence.
I could not say I wasn’t concerned but I wanted to keep the safety of my players – it was very important for me.
Winner: A Dream Final
Ghana and Ivory Coast are two of the traditional powerhouses of African football. In Sunday, they'll go head to head in search of the continental championship title.
Ivory Coast, thanks to some Yaya Toure heroics, knocked favoured Algeria out of the tournament before beating DR Congo in the semi-final round.
Ghana, meanwhile, saw off Guinea and Equatorial Guinea by a combined score of 6-0 to set up the showdown.
It should be a cracking match, with particular interest to Manchester City supporters as Toure and new signing Wilfried Bony line up for the Ivory Coast.
The Ivorians will be favourites to lift the trophy for the first time since 1992 when they defeated the Black Stars in an epic 11-10 penalty shoot-out.